Off the record?

White House briefings via conference call have become so uneventful that journalists say they’re unnecessary.


    It’s not unusual for the White House to hold what they call "background briefings" for reporters.

    Sounds like something out of a 70’s political thriller where a reporter huddles with senior, unnamed sources to get the scoop on a potentially explosive issue.

    But increasingly these briefings – which are done via conference call for pretty much any reporter who wants to participate - have become so commonplace and boring that journalists are now openly complaining they’re completely unnecessary and ridiculous.

    Such was the case on Monday when reporters questioned senior officials during a conference call touting new initiatives and funding requests by the White House for community policing following a controversial grand jury decision last week not to try Darren Wilson, a white Missouri police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.

    One reporter asked officials during the call why even bother having a faceless, nameless call with so-called sources, “when there’s nothing to be ashamed of here”.

    The insinuation, of course, is that the White House prefers background briefings to divulge difficult or controversial news to reporters so no one has to take official responsibility for it.

    One White House official replied they “prefer” it this way and wanted to leave the “on the record” remarks to the president.

    But given this comes amid charges over the past year that the Obama White House is one of the least transparent in modern history, this will do nothing to tamp down those criticisms. 



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