Saturday, May 10, 2008

Swampland Hijinks: Jay Newton-Small Edition

Kids and Jay Newton-Small say the damnedest things. "You can't invite us in and then not expect people to ask questions."

Jay Newton-Small doesn't get a lot of attention, perhaps because she isn't nearly as prolific as some of her Swampland colleagues. But her piece Lemme Eat My Waffle and her subsequent followups may have been her breakout performance:

He’d already spent more than 30 minutes glad handing the restaurant’s denizens, and with the 15+ press pool crammed behind the counter before him Obama dug in. Which is when one of the network reporters took the advantage of the close proximity to ask a question about Jimmy Carter meeting with Hamas and Obama irritably answered: “Why can’t I just eat my waffle?”
Obama hasn’t given a press conference in 10 days and the questions, some of them -- like Hamas -- rather important, are starting to build up. If he wins the nomination he'll be running again John McCain, whose philosophy is to give the press total access to the point of saturation; Obama might consider holding avails with a little more regularity. Then, maybe, reporters would let him to eat in peace.

It's fluffy, irrelevant and an example of the "act more like a Republican" advice journalists feel obliged to constantly hand out. There's also the hint of a passive-aggressive threat in there: meet our demands or we'll make you look bad compared to McCain. But overall it's not so much terrible as terribly irrelevant.

As is often the case Newton-Small finds herself in larger trouble when she attempts to engage her commenters:

It's about access: you ask the press to cram up in front of you while you eat your waffle and banter friendly jokes with you, but God forbid anyone ask anything serious -- that's trying to have your cake (or waffle) and eat it too, you can't invite us in and then not expect people to ask questions.

You can't? What if you trade the waffles for ribs? You can invite the press in, demand that they leave all recording devices behind and demand that they not ask serious question. As long as you are John McCain.

As more people commented on the story it completely fell apart. Obama had been meeting frequently with the local press, answering the questions that mattered to Pennsylvania voters. He had already weighed in definitively on Carter talking to Hamas, rendering the "important" question at the diner irrelevant -- a fact Newton-Small was apparently unaware of even though it's immediately obvious by running "Obama Carter Hamas" through google. And Newton-Small backed off her claim that McCain gives the press "total access to the point of saturation" after multiple commenters pointed out that her colleague, Michael Scherer, was complaining on the same Swampland pages that he couldn't get McCain to answer his questions after weeks of trying. (More about that in a later installment)

When you take all of that into account the original story is as follows: a reporter asked a question that Obama had addressed multiple times in the recent past and instead of addressing it again he took a bite of a waffle.

Man eats waffle, details at 11!

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