Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama's Blogger Moment Recalls Darker Episode

News Flash. Huffington Post wasn't the first new media blog to be formally called upon at a presidential news conference.

President George W. Bush and his press secretaries often looked for right-wing blogger Jeff Gannon (aka James D. Guckert) as safe quarter in the White House press room.

Gannon prided himself as "a conservative journalist embedded with the liberal Washington press corps" and would routinely toss the president a lifeline when questions from other correspondents strayed from the official line.

This alliance worked well for a White House press office seeking always to keep the media on message; Gannon was called upon up to a dozen times between 2003, when he secured daily White House credentials, and February 2005.

GannonWhite House Gannon
But Gannon's run ended after a particularly partisan question about Bush's opinion of congressional Democrats who were, in his words, "divorced from reality."

A blogger investigation of his "reporting" at Talon News found that Gannon often lifted large portions from RNC and White House press releases -- verbatim and without attribution.

But that's not all. We also uncovered Gannon's apparent double life involving gay pornography Web sites that promoted male prostitution -- his own.

GuckertMoonlighting Guckert
Gannon soon departed but his residency in the East Wing was one in a history of media low points for an administration that put staged propaganda before real reporting.

So while Monday night's question was a buzz-worthy moment for bloggers -- and a proud accomplishment for the Huffington Post -- its precedent reveals the darker side of a new media world where the line between reporter and propagandist can get blurry.

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