White House ends press briefing transcripts

A disappointing move from the latest administration to promise to be the most transparent ever:

Barack Obama’s administration may be promising the “greatest ethical standard ever administered to an executive branch,” and increased transparency over his predecessor, but it seems to be forgoing at least one transparency practice that was routine in the Bush White House— transcripts of the daily press briefing.

It’s been four days since Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ first (and widely panned) appearance before the White House press corps, but no transcript, summary, or video of the event has shown up on WhiteHouse.gov. The delay could be forgiven in a less tech-savvy bunch, but given the Obama team’s considerable online skill, the omission of the the transcript is clearly intentional.

In contrast, the Bush White House provided a transcript of every daily briefing, searchable and accessible in its own section on their web site. The archive, available via the Wayback Machine but not on the new WhiteHouse.gov, started Jan. 24, 2001. The Clinton White House also provided transcripts of the briefing, according to archives, at least as early as 1999.

The decision to withhold transcripts is not a departure from the Obama Team’s online posture during the campaign, and signals that’s exactly the posture they intend to take for the next four years. Team Obama got a lot of credit for being an active online presence, which indeed it was, but that presence was built for message control, not openness.

I’m sure that our nation’s free press will take up the slack and start issuing the transcripts themselves.

Ha ha!  Just kidding.  Glenn Reynolds’s explanation for the change is pretty much inarguable:

Bush wanted transcripts online because he expected the press to filter what he said. Obama doesn’t want transcripts online . . . because he expects the press to filter what he says.

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