Meet the press

A tale as old as time: Politicians preferring to do the people’s business out of sight.

The Huffington Post: Reporters were kicked out of Mitt Romney’s talk at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday night.

It’s not a Republican thing. President Obama did the same thing when he spoke with the same group, the Business Roundtable. And it’s not just a national thing.

WRAL‘s description of a planned meeting between N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis and the president of the NAACP: He said Tillis finally agreed to a May 23rd meeting with restrictions including an approved guest list and a media blackout.

I know it is naive to think that politicians would talk policy in public. Banning the news media or having “a media blackout” suggests that the politicians have something they want to say, but they don’t want the public to hear. Which is probably true. And which doesn’t inspire trust.

What’s more unsettling is that the public really doesn’t seem to care about being shut out. And the politicians know it.

Exclusive! Exclusives are dead!

What do you say we put the term “exclusive” in a coffin and nail it shut? It is dead. You just don’t know it. And the corpse is starting to smell.

First, I thought TV news programs were the main offender, but print and digital sites do it, too. Want an exclusive interview with Mitt Romney? ABC has one. So does Fox. As does KWQC. And the Wall Street Journal. He doesn’t say anything revealing or earth-shattering in these interviews, but he’s looking at your camera and your camera alone so it must be important. Exclusive!

That sound you hear are viewers and readers yawning.

When I was an editor of a newspaper, for a brief period, we announced our exclusives with a logo reading “Exclusive.” Clever, huh? We stopped after a few months when we realized that readers weren’t impressed.

Enough already. Here are three reasons that you should stop with the exclusive marketing.

1. An exclusive lasts about the length of time it takes someone to write 140 characters or fewer on on Twitter. Or an aggregator to sweep up the story on its own site. Or a wire service to pick it up, rewrite it and not give you any credit. After about 5 minutes of your wonderful exclusive, it’s gone. The exceptions are those stories that are truly memorable and make a difference. The News & Observer’s investigation into the SBI, for instance. It’s not tomorrow morning’s exclusive interview with Joran Van der Sloot’s prosecutor.

2. Announcing exclusives is just a gimmick, and a worn-out gimmick at that. People hear it so often that “in an exclusive interview” are just words that wash over you. People don’t remember who had what exclusive on which story anyway. Do a Google search of “Casey Anthony” exclusive. The first 10 results include ABC, Fox, TMZ, Hollywood Reporter, Nancy Grace, National Enquirer and Huffington Post. (Two are from the Daily Buzz and Funny or Die, which are video spoofs. Appropriate, huh?) Locally, TV stations are currently battling exclusives over the firing of four police officers in Candor, a town of less than 1,000 people 60 miles away from Greensboro. I would question whether the bulk of the audience is that interested in the story to be pushing the exclusive label, but that’s just me.

3. You look foolish. When you boast of an exclusive you know what it tells people? Everything else you have is commodity stuff I can get anywhere. And why would you want to tell me that? It hurts your credibility and devalues all media. We can’t afford it. Especially because much of your other stuff isn’t commodity. I worked in the newspaper business long enough to know that a lot of the stories in papers and on television are exclusives. They just aren’t sensational enough to SHOUT ABOUT THEM!

OK. I’ve said my peace. I don’t expect the Today Show not to have an exclusive tomorrow with one of the Kardashians on those pesky paternity rumors or Good Morning America to have Jay Z on to talk about the baby and the complaints about the hospital. But it would be nice not to hear about it.