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April 30, 2006

Jay Rosen on Tony Snow

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

It's hard to figure out what to make of Jay Rosen's commentary on Tony Snow's job. Rosen, an NYU professor and media critic extraodinaire, believes the Snow appointment may signal a shift in the White House's press relations strategy, allowing for a more traditional give-and-take between the beat reporters and the Presidency. There are no guarantees, but maybe there's a chance. With all due respect to Professor Rosen, I have a hard time buying it.

Snow is a former HWBush speechwriter who worked for a blatantly partisan news outlet in his most recent gig. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But to suggest that he'll work to allow more press access because he's served on the other side of the anchor's desk just doesn't compute. It seems much more likely that Snow represents the second stage of what Rosen terms "Rollback" -- the elimination of opportunities to question the policy positions of the President. I suspect the White Hosue will continue to focus most of its PR energy on favorable news outlets: Fox, reactionary talk-radio, perhaps USA Today, magazines that might not be hostile to the President, and the more pliable local newspapers. Network news and the major national papers will be left with a choice—cover the President's beat, consisting of q&a with handpicked audiences and "reporting on the news" when he appears on Fox News or in a Washington Times interview, or cover nothing. Whether the Post/Times/ABC/NBC/CBS reporters will catch on to the new game, or think Snow represents a return to "business as usual", is the real open question.

April 30, 2006 in Media | Permalink

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Comments

Nicholas, you better go back and read the piece again. Are you sure I believe "the Snow appointment may signal a shift in the White House's press relations strategy, allowing for a more traditional give-and-take between the beat reporters and the Presidency?" I don't think you are going to be able to come up with any quotes to that effect.

Also, you write: "To suggest that he'll work to allow more press access because he's served on the other side of the anchor's desk just doesn't compute." I didn't suggest that at all. Go look. There's nothing like that in my post.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

“President Bush appointed Fox News commentator Tony Snow as his press secretary Wednesday,” said the report in the Los Angeles Times, “signaling that in its final 1,000 days, his White House plans significant changes in the way it reaches the American people.”

Actually we don’t know if the changes will be significant. All we know is that the White House is trying to signal new times in the briefing room; and a lapse back into a more conventional press strategy is being predicted. (Text of Bush’s announcement.)

Some people are predicting a more conventional press strategy and the White House is trying to signal: new policy. That's all. Yours is a pretty serious misreading.

Click my name for the post in question.

Posted by: Jay Rosen | Apr 30, 2006 11:21:02 PM

Pickler buried this graf in her AP article today:

"Bolten said it may be worth considering whether to end the daily televised press briefings where reporters and the press secretary frequently air disputes in front of the cameras, but he will leave that decision up to Snow."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060430/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_s_new_chief_1

Heralds the new openness, right?

Posted by: John | Apr 30, 2006 11:21:10 PM

Poor Josh Bolten. Having to admit to "FOX News Sunday" that the Bush administration's practical policies don't need to change.

"I don't think we need to change, but we do need to refresh and re-energize."

Yeah, no changes besides the delivery of the message might mean more decorative photo ops when a Bushian conservative policy leads to disastrous results. Such as, I don't know, a speech from a lit up Jackson Square after doctrines such as self-reliance and the jurisdiction of the states led to rescue operations not being used to their full pontential. Or the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln moment where military service members were falsely told mission accomplished while the death toll has continued to climb.

Posted by: Joshua | May 1, 2006 12:36:01 AM

I don't blame Rosen for feeling somewhat mischaracterized.

Moving along...

" I suspect the White Hosue will continue to focus most of its PR energy on favorable news outlets"

Yup. I think Snow's appointment is a step toward a strategy of communicating with the GOP base. The goal is to better communicate with the type of folks who represent a typical Snow talk-radio audience.

The idea is that if they can reach the dittoheads, they can limit the damage this November.

Posted by: Petey | May 1, 2006 1:19:57 AM

The WH Press Secy and the daily press meetings stopped being a real source of news long ago. I won't speculate what charter Snow really has been given - not the charter Bush announced. We do know that good news for Bush from the WH press operation has almost disappeared - viewed from Bush's viewpoint.

Is it possible the bulk of the WH press corps, some members excluded, could be even more servile? We shall see.

When faced with potential shutoff of their sources - which is surely an option - they may just give up any pretense of journalism and become the open propagandists that many of them have been far to often. That is possibly what the WH wants to happen.

Bush: My job is to make decisions. And his job [Snow's] is to help explain those decisions to the press corps and the American people.
...
He's going to work hard to provide you with timely information about my philosophy, my priorities and the actions we are taking to implement our agenda.

I read Jay Rosen's piece as an open questioning of what may come from the Snow appointment.

My bet is that Snow is there to do a better job at rollback (as Jay describes it), not to truly open the executive's actions to better information flow. Opinions will vary. Time will tell.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 1, 2006 2:40:57 AM

I don't think the PR part is especially interesting - Snow is atractive and personable and very good with words. All of which is a vast improvement over McLellan, and alone will probably shift some of the press - especially TV, which traffics in appearances - to talk about "new day" etc in the White House. The problem, ultimately though, isn't presentation, it's substance. And this is the part I find interesting - which is that Snow is supposed to get a seat at the policy-making table. Snow is one of the true believers, convinced that if the White House just listened to its conservative instincts it could fix its problems. If he has an impact at this, how will people react to even more conservative policy-making? And if he doesn't, how frustrated will he be with the way the White House operates? That's what I'm waiting to see, and I think it will be the worst of all worlds - a couple of major policy missteps and an increasingly frustrated Snow, who may not make it to the end of Bush's run.

Posted by: weboy | May 1, 2006 5:21:38 AM

You're scenario sounds right, weboy. Then after resigning, he'll publish some lame-ass bestseller ala "Behimd the Velvet Ropes" hopefully with a subtitle like..."An inside look at Bush before his resignation and public incontinent, weeping, nervous breakdown".

I think Snow can be a real asshole and will say something highly offensive w/o much provocation. I'm expecting the Big 3 networks to gang up on Faux once (SO overdue) and for all.

Posted by: lawsam | May 1, 2006 6:47:21 AM

I suppose I see how it could be useful for the pundits to speculate about actual change, but I'll believe it when I see it. They knew they had a sinking poll number and credibility problem, they knew McClennan was the face just below the President that gets presented to the American people and the press, so they figured they would sacrifice one of their own to improve the image. The fact that some are actually contemplating change means it might just have worked.

Posted by: Adrock | May 1, 2006 10:13:14 AM

I think believe it when you see it is a very good rule to follow. We're probably all in agreement that the situation calls for that. You watch what is said about "what Snow will mean," but that's just data. Not meaningless. Not predictive. You factor it in with other data, all of what we know, and then you see what the newly configured White House actually does, does in a pinch, never does. Spinning Snow as some big opening is bad all around, but most people paying attention see through that.

On the other hand, it's "spin" to say come now, Tony Snow will mean nothing changes; we know he's just going to be a slicker version of the same thing, and so on. It could turn out that way, which means an improvement in the Bush fog machine because Snow is watchable.

It could turn out another way. Snow may be so good on his feet that the press could suffer worse defeats. New levels of deception are possible. Lots of things could happen. In fact, the situation seems to me highly unstable.

Posted by: Jay Rosen | May 1, 2006 11:17:57 AM

I must say congratulations! Wonderful changes and new opportunities. All these people are glad for you.. me too.

chattr team

Posted by: chattr | Apr 1, 2007 7:03:03 PM

I must say congratulations! Wonderful changes and new opportunities. All these people are glad for you.. me too.

chattr team

Posted by: chattr | Apr 1, 2007 7:03:50 PM

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Posted by: peterwei | Oct 22, 2007 7:58:51 AM

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