Washington Press Corps Just One Big Book-Publishing Scam
There are, in 2010, only two types of political books that get published. Actually there are more, but let's just say there are two. The first is for elected or appointed officials or staffers, whose financial incentive is to not fix or help the country in any way while on the job, quit after a few years, and immediately sign a memoir deal about how your unpopular, failed boss never listened to your brilliant advice that could have saved everything. The second is to get a fake but fancy-sounding job like "White House Correspondent" and use it to write fluffy or superficial odes to the Administration, in exchange for hot backroom gossip that can be leveraged into a book deal. The latter happens to be what every senior political reporter or White House correspondent is doing right now.
Howard Kurtz wrote the other day about how competitive it's become among reporters to get face-time with top Administration officials, since, again, every White House reporter is working on a stupid superficial anecdotal laundry list book about the White House. Some are even working on their second!
The blitz has created complications for presidential aides, who have a country to run, and frustrations for the authors, who are clamoring for face time with their sources. One White House official calls the mounting demands "a pain" in the posterior, saying: "We try to engage when we can. No one is getting as much time as they want."
With the publishing world nourishing a deep appetite for all things Obama, those working on such books include Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, NBC's Chuck Todd, MSNBC's Richard Wolffe, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and David Maraniss, the New York Times' Jodi Kantor and two New Yorker writers -- editor David Remnick and Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza. Time's Mark Halperin and New York magazine's John Heilemann, whose campaign chronicle "Game Change" became a huge bestseller, have just signed a deal with Penguin Press to chronicle the 2012 contest -- for an advance reported to be about $5 million.
Aside from killing all of one's fellow tradesmen, what sorts of things can reporters do to win access in this competitive atmosphere of crappy forgettable useless and Very Serious Obama-book publishing?
Ah, here's one idea. Reporters can get on their knees for a hot suckin'. Steve Clemons explains:
But the kind of books that sell need "inside access" and this is something that the communications team at the White House doles out minimally, and increasingly, only when favors are part of the arrangement.
What I have learned after discussions over the last several days with several journalists who either have regular access to the White House or are part of the White House press corps is that there is a growing sense that access is traded for positive stories -- or perhaps worse, an agreement that things learned will not be reported in the near term.
The White House is working hard to secure deals that yield fluffy, feel good commentary about the Obama White House. One American White House reporter used colorful terms to describe the arrangement. The reporter said, "They want 'blow jobs' first. Then you have to be on good behavior for a bit or be willing to deal, and then you get access."
And Mark Halperin gives the best head in Washington D.C.