The Obama administration today released the first edition of White House Wire, a special newsletter aimed at the black community. Aggregating recent news such as UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s speech at Howard University Law School, Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s trip to Chicago to address youth violence, the naming of a U.S. Navy ship for Medgar Evers and the nomination of a black woman as a judge for the First Circuit Court of Appeals, the new publication is another part of the White House tool to direct messaging about its policy agenda.
Corey Ealons, Director of African American media outreach at the White House press office, described the effort as “a synopsis of the things that go on in black America. Most of the information is coming from the week before. It’s a summary of the information that’s coming out of the administration that relates to African Americans.”
All of the information presented is available at the White House website or at relevant agency websites. Not all of the news involves black politics or black Cabinet officials. “Something like Susan Rice speaking at Howard, that’s obviously an African American issue,” said Ealons. “But African American businesses have been thinking about how to get more involved with the Recovery Act, and there’s information there that helps them plug in.” The newsletter may spotlight Obama’s trip to New Orleans tomorrow.
The push to inform black America has been ongoing since Obama’s run for office, during which Ealons also managed a similar flow of information and relationships with national black media outlets like The Root, Ebony / Jet and AOL BlackVoices as well as local papers like the Washington Informer, Chicago Defender and the Amsterdam News. A similar effort has involved Latino news outlets in America and abroad.
This new e-blast, which will be published “as needed,” also reflects the White House's fairly aggressive posture toward news media and messaging in recent weeks. As Michael Scherer reports in TIME:
[A] new White House strategy has emerged: rather than just giving reporters ammunition to "fact-check" Obama's many critics, the White House decided it would become a player, issuing biting attacks on those pundits, politicians and outlets that make what the White House believes to be misleading or simply false claims, like the assertion that health-care reform would establish new "sex clinics" in schools. Obama, fresh from his vacation on Martha's Vineyard, cheered on the effort, telling his aides he wanted to "call 'em out."
The take-no-prisoners turn has come as a surprise to some in the press, considering the largely favorable coverage that candidate Obama received last fall and given the President's vows to lower the rhetorical temperature in Washington and not pay attention to cable hyperbole. Instead, the White House blog now issues regular denunciations of the Administration's critics, including a recent post that announced "Fox lies" and suggested that the cable network was unpatriotic for criticizing Obama's 2016 Olympics effort.
Is this part of a new "beat the press" strategy? While Ealons says the White House Wire is “just a newsletter—it’s not a big deal,” it does serve a unique messaging purpose in the consistently noisy modern news environment.
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.