Once upon a time, journalists saw their mission as comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. How quaint.
To get the big story now, you need to have the right race and sexual orientation. And don’t forget to make friends with the president of the United States. It will help your career.
That’s the lesson from President Obama’s decision to grant Robin Roberts of ABC News the interview where he supported gay marriage.
Future journalists, keep this incident in mind. You don’t need to be a cynic to understand how Washington works. But it certainly helps.
According to Politico, “The White House went with Robin because of her personal rapport, their friendship, the past interviews — but also her race [African-American], even her age,” one producer at ABC told Politico of the 51-year-old Roberts. “There is a very strong, very basic connection there.”
Follow-up stories noted that Roberts is a lesbian, and others believed that factored into the White House decision. All this was reported in matter-of-fact tones, as if none it was news in the mutual back-scratching circles of Washington.
Roberts may be a perfectly fine and honest journalist. But that’s not why she got the interview. She was used, and she benefited.
The president should have called a press conference to explain himself on a matter of keen national interest. That way, numerous news organizations would have had equal access and could have asked more probing questions.
Instead, he chose a friend whom he assumed would cause him little friction. And the choice of a single network was likely a ratings bonanza for ABC, which might feel further indebted to the president.
As for future journalists, keep this incident in mind. You don’t need to be a cynic to understand how Washington works. But it certainly helps.
Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist. To read his column on other topics, including how Democrats are betraying the NYPD, click here.