I admit it, I get edgy every time I see an email from a network or cable news division that boasts of President Barack Obama granting "exclusive" access to an anchor, correspondent or the news division itself.
It signals that the Obama administration is up to one its oldest and most masterful games of selectively granting access to try and get flattering coverage. I wrote about it when NBC's bowing anchorman Brian Williams was allowed into the White House for a highly-rated two-night special, and in advance of ABC's "town hall" meeting on healthcare at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
And now, comes this email from CNN with the headline: "Anderson Cooper 360 with Exclusive Access to President Obama."
I've been wondering when Team Obama was going to try to work its game on CNN. Et tu, Anderson?
Look, I am not pre-judging. And when the president of CBS News, say, grants me exclusive access, I am there in a heartbeat with a shine on my shoes and a smile on my face. That's part of being a journalist. But I am also there with all kinds of alarm bells going off in my head, telling me not to give this person a break because they are giving me access.
And part of my job now is to say,"Hey, Anderson and CNN, we'll be watching to make sure you're not taken for the kind of ride Williams and NBC News were taken for by one of the savviest teams of White House image makers this side of the crews that surrounded Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy." I think that kind of warning from a number of people contributed to ABC News not handing its airwaves over to Obama in the town hall meeting last month.
Here is the CNN press release, and I would put one out, too, if I was given the access. But note the "special" programming already planned as a result of the "exclusive" access. That's the kind of power to enrich -- ads can be sold within such "specials" -- that being in the White House allows. And let's not forget that when the final product airs and we are able to judge it.
One last thought: I wonder when the Fox News channel gets its special access on a high-visibility trip like this.