Have you ever charged the media just to see your executive at a public event?
Seems like a silly idea, right? One that might lead to negative press coverage. Well it’s exactly what the Obama campaign is doing and so far the negative PR is minimal.
For his election night party in Chicago’s Grant Park, Barack Obama is asking media outlets to cough up at least $880 to simply view him and $935 for access to the coveted “file center,” where reporters have the best chance to find and speak with Obama officials.
Media outlets that don’t pay receive access to a “bike racked press area with standing room only,” explained a memo from the Obama campaign.
The memo added, “Please note that the General Media Area is outdoors, unassigned and may have obstructed views. General Media Area credentials do not include access to riser positions, satellite truck parking or the press filing center.”
Lynn Sweet, the longtime Chicago Sun-Times reporter covering the Obama campaign, called this move by Obama officials an outrage.
“This is an outrageous pay to play plan that caters to national elite outlets with deep pockets,” she said on her Sun-Times blog Oct. 21. “A general media area will be created where a reporter could watch for free, but the set-up is separate, unequal and clearly second class when it comes to getting top access to campaign people.”
(The Obama campaign memo is included in Sweet’s blog post.)
Reporters covering political campaigns typically pay every out-of-pocket cost: transportation, lodging, food, communication fees. At events, like party conventions, media outlets usually pay for their phone line.
The story of Obama’s election night has gained little traction in the media. An Associated Press story appeared Oct. 22, but failed to gather buzz. The AP article, basically a follow-up to Sweet’s blog and a Crain’s Chicago Business story, gave Obama spokespeople a chance to spin this potential PR problem.
“There is no fee to cover our Election Night event. News organizations will be able to cover our event without charge, with full access to our campaign advisers,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told the AP in a statement.
Greg Hinz, of Crain’s Chicago Business, gave a less cheerful assessment of “full coverage.” He wrote, “[An Obama spokesman] said that since the file tent will be located in the middle of the general media area, reporters will be able to stop and question any senior aides who are traveling to the file tent.”
Forget plumbers, seems like the Obama campaign is ignoring Joe the small town reporter. I wonder when—or if—that approach to media relations will backfire.