The harshest judges of those in news media are often others in the news media, and, with the benefit of Twitter, that intrajournalistic watchdog role can be performed simultaneously with the journalism being criticized.
Case in point was the White House news conference on Wednesday afternoon, when President Obama made a forceful announcement in response to the massacre of children last week in Newtown, Conn. He said he was directing Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lead an effort “to come up with a set of concrete proposals” about dealing with gun violence that he would submit to Congress no later than January.
“We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence.”
His words, after five days of extensive news coverage and national debate, were intensely focused on gun violence. He addressed no other topics. Yet judging by the questions that followed his address, most of the members of the Washington press corps had other things on their minds.
“I’d like to ask you about the other serious issue consuming this town right now, the fiscal cliff,” was the first question, from The Associated Press’s correspondent, Ben Feller.
Mr. Obama answered. Then came the next question, again about the so-called “fiscal cliff”: “What is your next move?” Then: “You mentioned the $700,000, $800,000 — are you willing to move on income level?” And so on, for at least 15 minutes, before a question about gun violence was finally asked, by David Jackson of USA Today.
Media watchers on Twitter — mainly other members of the media and some whose job it is to watch it — quickly seized on the questions as a sign that the Washington press corps was out of step with the national agenda.