The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library hosted its second program of the year, a particularly special one. 2013 marks the centennial year of President Gerald R. Ford’s birth and is sure to be full of special programs. The Library, the National Archives and Records Administration along with The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation hosted award winning journalist Scott Wilson. Wilson was the 2011 recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Award for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency.
Wilson attended the Columbia University School of Journalism and in 1997 then joined the staff of the “Washington Post”. He currently serves as White House Correspondent for that publication. In 2012, Wilson was presented The Aldo Beckman Award, which recognizes repeated excellence in White House Coverage.
Wilson discussed the ever changing world of White House reporting looking back to the Presidential Election of 2008; one with excitement in the air with the possibility of electing an African American to Office. He argued that it was just as important for how Presidential Candidate Barack Obama ran his campaign, as it was on utilizing new forms of communicating with young voters. Wilson pointed out the successes that President Obama, a savvy communicator, had from that time forward using unique tools at his disposal to unite Democrats and Republicans while avoiding the public media. This has allowed for President Obama to speak directly to the American people through social outlets, avoiding the scrutiny of “traditional media” outlets.
President Obama has also made communication between traditional media outlets and The White House more challenging. He has removed barriers, allowing the government and the American people to communicate directly. Using “new media” such as targeted emails, Twitter conversations, a state of art interactive White House website, and “Google Hangouts”, Obama’s team created 2-5/day news cycles, far from one “that began with the morning paper and ended with the evening news”. The blurring of the independent press and White House media operations has made it clear that his main competition is no longer “The Wall Street Journal” or the “New York Times”, but The White House.
Wilson has been challenged with the changes in “Presidential communication” over Obama’s first term. A shift in archetype has taken place where “dues paying, up through the ranks, reporters who moved from newspaper to newspaper “ are being replaced by internet journalists, providing more eyes on our government, but not be held to the same levels and standards. Wilson does admit the value of the internet as it becomes the outlet for the next “golden age” of reporting.
With each Administration tightening the lid on information a bit further, the job of the traditional journalist has had to adapt, comparing it to “chiseling small cracks in the cement of The White House”. It’s niche now is providing a quality of reporting, based on the rigorous collecting of data and analysis and conveying in one cohesive story to its readers who are increasingly bombarded by “bits and pieces” of news via new media.
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