The Biden Beach Party

Marc defends the choice by several journalists to attend a "beach party" held by Joe Biden and White House staff:

Accepting a few hours worth of hospitality from the Bidens may be just that -- a chance for families to get together and enjoy each other's company. The main attraction, aside from the Vice President and his family, were the rides for kids, the face painting, and the moon bounce. 

The adults chit-chatted on the upper part of the lawn while the kids -- journalists' kids, Biden's family, the children of White House officials -- chased each other around with water guns. It was a nice way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon. But these aren't ordinary afternoons, and the very idea that a journalist would accept a slice of watermelon from the Vice President strikes many a critical activist as criminally insane -- an example of the cozy relationships that exist between journalists and their sources, an example of how the oppositional role of the press has been compromised by people in power. 

Well, yes. The relationships can be cordial, occasionally cozy, and they can simultaneously be professional and skeptical. Indeed, has there ever been a time when journalists and the political establishment have been MORE skeptical about each other?

I don't have the knowledge of Washington to answer that last question, but I think, in general, it's a good idea for journalists to try to be as cordial as possible to people they cover. I'd submit that attending a party at the home of someone you're supposed to be covering, in which your children will play with their children, is beyond cordiality.

Marc, like most of his colleagues, argues that he has not lost a whit of skepticism toward the White House. But the better question is whether White House media has lost (or ever even had) any skepticism toward itself. Marc goes on to note several stories he's working that the administration doesn't like. But likely the peril is much smaller and less knowable. Likely it originates in the kind of twisted loyalties that sprout up when your sources become your friends.

Consumers of news should ask themselves a very simple question when they see these sorts of events: What is the White House's agenda? What is their interest in inviting a gaggle of journalists and their families over for a party? What are they trying to achieve? 

By the logic of the  press corps, these White House social events have no real effect on the news narrative. I find that interesting. There are some very smart people in the the White House. It would seem that by now they would know their soirée press strategy has been a miserable failure. And yet they press on. I wonder why?
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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