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No room in the White House press pool for HuffPo, TPM?

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, December 4 2009

One place where the Internet has changed American politics most dramatically is where it comes to the political press. In the U.S., media and politics are so completely intertwined as to often be two parts of the same whole. Coverage shapes action, action molds coverage, and personalities in and out of political officialdom mix and mingle to become the most powerful force guiding what comes out of the political process. That's what makes this little dust-up over the admittance of reporters from two "new media" upstarts -- Talking Points Memo's Christina Bellantoni and the Washington Times' Sam Stein -- to the White House press pool so fascinating. Press pool reporters provide coverage where space or other limitations make it difficult for the full White House press corps to participate. The photo above suggests it's glamorous work.

Pool service is something like cooking communal dinner in a group house. And some in the Washington media world aren't happy with who's going to be taking turns doing the cooking.

Politico's Mike Calderone quotes the New York Times' Peter Baker:

This is really troubling...We’re blurring the line between news and punditry even further and opening ourselves to legitimate questions among readers about where the White House press corps gets its information.

Greg Sargent, who writes the Plum Line blog for the Washington Post argues that the sky isn't falling just because two two experienced reporters for left-leaning into the pool:

But look, at risk of making an obvious point, it isn’t the institutions that are doing the pool reports. They will be done by individual reporters who work at those institutions. So the criticism seems misguided in a very fundamental way.

Politico's Ben Smith offers context:

Given that the Washington Times and New York Post -- as opinionated as anyone -- are in the pool, I think this line may be a bit hard to hold, though this is clearly another step away from the tradition of neutrality.

As many commentators have pointed out, Bellantoni has already taken a spin at pool coverage, handling the job for the Washington Times. And that suggests that perhaps want has long-serving members of the press pool upset isn't so much a partisan bias or ideological bent as it is something to do with the two publications' style and tone. The Huffington Post, for example, has, for the last many months, trafficked in shots of scantily-clad ladies and features like The Big Picture, where celebrities are presented in extreme close-up so that we might examine their flaws. TPM isn't afraid of serving as a bomb-thrower, and a partisan one at that, but its manner is a bit more staid and more in line with traditional Washington mores. It would be interesting to know whether such a fuss would have greeted Talking Points Memo's entry into the pool had it been alone, and not coupled with HuffPo's entry.