White House Press: Ground Rules (Clinton 2000 interview with Amy Goodman)

Here is an excellent case study of how the media in the US works:

AMY GOODMAN: President Clinton on Election Day 2000. I interviewed him with WBAI producer Gonzalo Aburto. Well, a day after that program, I got a call from the White House press office. A staffer let me know how furious they were with me for breaking the ground rules for the interview. “Ground rules?” I asked. “What ground rules? He called up to be interviewed. I interviewed him.”

“He called to discuss getting out the vote,” they said, “and you strayed from the topic. You also kept him on much longer than the two to three minutes that we had agreed to,” she said.

“President Clinton is the most powerful person in the world,” I said. “He can hang up if he wants to.”

Well, the Clinton administration threatened to ban me from the White House and suggested to a Newsday reporter that they might punish me for my attitude by denying me access—not that I had any to lose. The White House spokesperson said, “Any good reporter understands if you violate the ground rules in an interview, that it’s going to be taken into account the next time you are seeking an interview.”

Well, first of all, we hadn’t agreed to any ground rules. Clinton called us. Second, we wouldn’t have agreed to any. The only ground rule for good reporting I know is that you don’t trade your principles for access. We call it the “access of evil.”

 Clinton interview here

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