Progressive Media Outlets Complain President Biden’s Team Doesn’t Talk Enough to Them

From a story on by Sam Stein, Max Tani, and Alex Thompson headlined “Can Pod Save Biden?”:

Months before JOE BIDEN took office, the folks at liberal-oriented Crooked Media offered him a small piece of press relations advice.

“Develop closer ties with progressive outlets,” they wrote. “Give them scoops and access and grow their audiences and influence the way [Donald] Trump’s team has nurtured fringe rags like Newsmax and OAN.”

One year in, Biden’s team has not followed through, according to those who operate in the progressive media ecosystem. There have been fits and starts. Last week, chief of staff RON KLAIN sat for a lengthy chat with EZRA KLEIN’s podcast. This week, press secretary JEN PSAKI did an interview on The PoliticsGirl Podcast — a production from the liberal entity MediasTouch. She also sat down with the co-hosts at Crooked’s own Pod Save America.

But during the first year of his administration, Biden didn’t conduct a single interview with a digital media organization, despite regular requests from those outlets. One source familiar with the ask said HuffPost and BuzzFeed News have a standing joint interview request with Vice President KAMALA HARRIS’ office on the issue of voting rights, but the veep so far hasn’t made any plans for a sit down.

CENK UYGUR, the founder of lefty video and streaming network The Young Turks, said they never hear from the White House, and have never scored an interview with any White House officials. “I think it would offend their sensibilities if they had to lower themselves to talk to progressive media,” Uygur said.

At a time when Biden is slipping among Democrats, when his administration has struggled to generate news cycles, and when the White House is battling disinformation campaigns, the reluctance to utilize liberal media has struck progressive operatives as bewildering. Then again, it also puts Biden firmly in the mainstream of Democratic politicians.

Progressive operatives have long complained that elected Democrats loath working through, or elevating, ideologically-allied outlets. There are a variety of reasons: a sense that there is limited impact in doing so, a love affair with the more establishment brands, and fear they could get trapped into talking about issues (weed! the drone wars!) they’d rather avoid.

“Republicans are scared of their base and Democrats hate their base. This plays out in the media,” said ARI RABIN-HAVT, who has worked in both progressive media and as an adviser to top liberal politicians, including former Sen. HARRY REID (D-Nev.) and Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.). “Republicans feel like they have to do these shows. Democrats for the most part find reporters with progressive ideologies annoying and don’t want to deal with them.”

The result, as Rabin Havt sees it, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Having determined that progressive media isn’t a good bang for the buck, Democratic officials deprive those media outlets of the scoops, content, and interviews that would give them additional heft. The dynamic has worsened in recent years as the media ecosystem has become decentralized and dispersed. Democratic donors are backing some new ventures. But in interviews, executives at major progressive media outlets say that the big money has never gone towards sustained investments in liberal press….

That doesn’t mean the well’s been dry. Progressive media has scored interviews and scoops with Cabinet-level officials, from FTC Chair LINA KAHN discussing the difficulty in canceling gym memberships with the new labor-focused nonprofit outlet, More Perfect Union, to Interior Secretary DEB HAALAND sitting down with HuffPost several times. A source familiar with the White House’s thinking said the Biden team hasn’t ignored digital news outlets….But at the top, there is a notable absence of engagement, and it stands in contrast to the last two administrations.

For DONALD TRUMP, ideological-allied media hits were a dopamine kick. Often, it got him in trouble, with the friendly questions compelling him to say something wildly out of the mainstream. But as a political matter, it kept his base enthralled and drove storylines. How beneficial those storylines were a separate matter.

The Obama White House was a late adopter to the idea that ideological press could be a value-add. In the middle of the second term, Obama sat down with the author of this newsletter (then at Huffpost) and Buzzfeed News, visited a prison with the founder of Vice News, did multiple interviews with Klein, then Vox’s editor, as well as one with tech journalist KARA SWISHER.


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