Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Enforcing Good Manners Among the White House Press Corps

As the entire Dick Cheney hunting accident White House Press Corps brouhaha has underscored, once again, news media decorum must be restored.

No matter how much media malpractice occurs as a result of blatant political bias, we cannot and should not monkey with the First Amendment. The free market, i.e., the listening, viewing and reading audience, will reward or punish those who abuse their journalistic rights. And that is already happening.

But is it too much to demand of talking heads in the media that—while they might despise the current occupant of the White House (and members of the so-called mainstream media certainly do), they should at least observe a modicum of respect for the Office of the President.

President Bush has already leaned in this direction by refusing to call upon the snarling, bitter, self-anointed “dean” of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas. And no doubt his Press Secretary Scott McClellan will be adding other rude reporters to the list of “no calls” after the abominable behavior exhibited by some of them during the quail hunting feeding frenzy.

But I have a more elegant solution.

While not calling on an offensive reporter doesn’t give the talking head his or her moment in the sun, said Media Star is still on the premises and still able to take down what is occurring during the press briefing. A better way would be for Mr. McClellan to lay down some rules of behavior during White House press events.

First and foremost would be showing the proper respect for the Office of the President of the United States. That means not using insulting or demeaning language or tone of voice when addressing the president or his representatives. The subject matter of questions would not be affected; just their delivery. The president of Mr. McClellan could then answer or choose not to answer questions, as they see fit, and if reporters persist in asking questions that are leading in nature or beneath discussion or repetitive, the president or Mr. McClellan could simply do as they do now and say, “I’ve already addressed that question and now consider the subject closed; now let’s move on to another question.”

Offending reporters who failed to follow the rules of politeness and respect would simply be banned from the White House—denied access.

Pretty soon, the organizations for which these boorish reporters work would have a choice to make: Either not cover the White House and thereby miss out on all the news as it happens; or exhibit some old fashioned decorum.

The only downside of this proposal is that it would deny self-absorbed Media Stars the opportunity to make fools out of themselves on national television, for the public to witness in their full glory. But at least it might teach people manners.

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