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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 26, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Planted questions: Did Obama stage news conference?

Planted questioner, not question, at conference

I read Dana Milbank’s column [“Briefing room is now a stage?” Close Up, June 24] on Obama’s first daytime press conference, and I have some problems with it.

First of all, having someone preselected to read a question from someone else in Iran is not the same as having a planted question. A planted question is when you know the question in advance, not when you know the questioner in advance — or in this case merely the person who relays the question.

Admittedly, Milbank starts off by accusing him of having a “planted questioner” near the beginning, but then Milbank calls it a “preplanned question” later. He takes the fact that Obama answered a question relayed to him from someone in Iran and uses it to leave the reader with the impression he was answering a planted question — an accusation for which Milbank offers no evidence.

Secondly, what was it doing in Close Up instead of Opinon? It represents neither an in-depth look at the situation in Iran, nor America’s response to it, the apparent Close Up themes of the day. Instead, it seems like someone’s desperate attempt to dig up any kind of dirt on Obama and then pretend to find something they haven’t.

Either that, or Milbank was just miffed because her daytime soaps were canceled for the conference.

— Andre Duval, Seattle

Column belonged in opinion, not news

Dana Milbank’s column is not news. In the article he writes about the supposed use of “planted” reporters at President Obama’s news conference Tuesday.

Is the subject matter newsworthy? Absolutely. But Milbank’s article should not be mistaken for news and should therefore be (if anywhere at all) in the Opinion section and not Close Up.

The article is all unsubstantiated speculation. The closest Milbank comes to real reporting is in his loose reference to what Nico Pitney, one of the so-called planted reporters, said. He writes, “Pitney said the White House … asked him to come up with a question proposed by an Iranian.”

Where is the journalism here? What the column should tell me is who at the White House talked to the “planted” reporters. What was the background on Pitney’s connection to the Iran story? Was he planning to ask the same question regardless? Are all reporters at briefings given general guidelines? Is there traditionally some picking and choosing of news agencies happening? And finally, where did Milbank get his information?

As it is, the column seems like little more than thinking out loud.

— Greg McBrady, Seattle

Comments | More in Barack Obama administration, Media

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