If you're a White House reporter, and the White House doesn't like your tweet, expect a phone call. According to Yahoo's chief Washington correspondent Olivier Knox, the White House employs a 24-year-old "media monitor" to compile unfavorable, wrong, or incomplete tweets from influential reporters.
It's Jessica Allen's job to track reporters' tweets and flag them "in mass emails that land in the in-boxes of more than 80 Obama aides, including chief of staff Denis McDonough, White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler, press secretary Jay Carney and senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer," according to Knox. Reporters can then expect an off-the-record email or phone call from an Obama aide, sometimes even Carney himself. CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller says he's heard from Carney multiple times:
Sometimes he points out something where I could have been more clear, and I’ll go back and clarify it and attribute it to him. Sometimes he makes a legitimate point. Sometimes I disagree and I stand my ground.
It's like the White House press corps is made up of angsty teens, and Allen is the older sister ratting them out to Mom. But since most people (especially reporters) now realize that Twitter is public, reporters don't seem to mind. In fact, the monitoring probably makes them feel superior:
Ah, the sound of 300 insecure DC reporters hoping they're important enough to be on Obama's Twitter monitoring list. http://t.co/KFPzu4W4OX— Chris Moody (@moody) May 1, 2014
The media monitoring system is mostly an effective way to prevent White House officials from getting into it with reporters on Twitter. One Democratic operative told Knox that if you do see an official directly responding to a reporter, he or she is looking for a fight. "When you see, say, Pfeiffer engaging on Twitter, those are the times that he does want it escalated," the operative said. "It’s a medium that’s designed for argument."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.