Moulitsas: Breaking out of the Beltway

Moulitsas: Breaking out of the Beltway

In a seemingly coordinated effort, D.C. political reporters last week tweeted out some version of the following: “Trump leads Clinton 17-0 in press conferences!” You see, the political press is furious that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Monica Lewinsky responds to viral HBO intern's mistake: 'It gets better' Virginia governor's race poses crucial test for GOP MORE won’t take questions from them. “What does she have to hide?” they ask. They punish her with headlines like The New York Times’s “Where has Hillary Clinton been? Ask the Ultrarich.” All because she won’t give them press conferences. 

And Clinton is right to ignore them. 


To be clear, she’s not ignoring the media. She’s ignoring the insider Beltway media. There’s a big difference. 

Per an NPR analysis, the Democratic presidential nominee has done more than 350 interviews this year, averaging nearly one and a half per day. NPR dismissed many of those outlets, such as black radio stations, a woman-focused website and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” as “not ... journalists or in settings that would be considered journalistic.” It sniffed that the bulk of her interviews took place on local TV stations. And, along with the rest of the hyperventilating Beltway crowd, NPR ignored her press conference at a gathering of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists. Apparently reporters of color don’t count, not even 3/5ths, nor does constituency media. 

So Clinton is definitely speaking to people. She just isn’t doing so through the Beltway press.

And about that “17-0” claim above — national reporters thought they were needling Clinton, trying to shame her into paying them heed. Instead, they confirmed their own irrelevance as Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE has ridden 17 press conferences into the gutter of public opinion. And why would they matter? Their focus on the insipid, inane and irrelevant hasn’t done them, or their shrinking audiences, any favors. Even when Clinton gave reporters an impromptu press gaggle Tuesday morning, the pool report claimed she greeted reporters with a “big sarcastic smile on her face.”

Local and constituency media, on the other hand, tend toward the substantive. When given two chances to interview Clinton this year, the local CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, KDKA, asked about fracking, gun control and the regional coal and steel industries. That woman’s site, Refinery29.com, grilled the former first lady on reproductive rights, a key issue to pretty much the entire liberal base — and it did so to a monthly audience 18 million strong. Even that supposedly fluffy Jimmy Kimmel appearance focused on real responses to Trump claims that she co-founded the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and has health issues. 

So why should Clinton waste time with people either seeking the latest clickbait headline or those who don’t speak to the people she currently needs to reach? Why run her message through a media filter when today’s social media outlets allow her to speak to the American people unfiltered? A Pew Research report recently found that 62 percent of Americans get news from social media, far outstripping the traditional media outlets. 

Everything will change once Clinton is president. She’ll represent the entire country, and as such, should be expected to speak to the national media. But her campaign is not a national campaign. Her task is to earn votes in key battleground states while keeping party stalwarts excited and engaged. And the Beltway press offers zero benefits on those fronts. 

The smart play for Clinton is to refocus her energies on local, constituency and social media — no matter how loudly D.C. reporters stomp their feet. 

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.