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Former Obama Healthcare Comms. Director Linda Douglass: Reporters and Sources More “Wary Of Each Other” in Digital News World

Linda Douglass, who previously worked as the communications director for the Office of Health Reform at the White House and has also worked as Barack Obama’s traveling press secretary, recently joined The Atlantic as vice president of strategic communications.

Yesterday she spoke was a guest on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” to talk about the move and going back and forth from journalism to PR. Douglass was also previously an ABC News correspondent. In her new position, she will also be involved with newsroom activities, which Kurtz asked about.

From the transcript:

KURTZ: But if you’re helping to shape the newsroom, could anybody be skeptical and say you’re bringing some kind of pro-Obama agenda?

DOUGLASS: What I’m doing is bringing decades of experience in journalism and in communications to try to rebuild this operation and see where people get their news, who they believe, who they trust –

KURTZ: You’re so experienced, you just deflected my question.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: All right. Let me move on. When you were in the middle of this health care fight, which seemed to go on forever, were you disappointed by some of the reporting you saw?

DOUGLASS: Well, you know, everything has changed so much. I was — of course I was disappointed, but you’re always disappointed no matter which side you’re on. And the thing I –

KURTZ: What disappointed you?

DOUGLASS: Well, what I saw on all sides was that reporters are under so much pressure now, you know, to report something every 15, 20 minutes. I mean, when I was a reporter, you had a deadline once or twice a day.

KURTZ: Yes.

DOUGLASS: So they’ve got…

KURTZ: So everything gets thrown up online.

DOUGLASS: Everything gets thrown up online. Everything is news, no matter how small or trivial. Any little trivial thing can go on and on and on. But they’re under pressure from their editors to churn information out.

The government officials or the campaign officials are trying to tell their own story and they’re under pressure with these waves of news that are pouring over them all the time. And what I think is unfortunate is that it’s harder and harder for reporters and government officials to trust each other. You don’t have the time to develop those relationships anymore and there’s so much pressure and they’re so wary of each other, as they should be, naturally, that it’s very hard for that trust to be built, which occasionally will exist with reporters on beats with a government official.

So what did reporters that Douglass pitched while working on health-care reform say to Reliable Source’s Howard Kurtz when he came calling to get background on her?


KURTZ: Now, some of the reporters I talked to said you were a very aggressive PR person, that you would challenge the premise of stories, that if stories were published that you didn’t like, you would call up and complain about them. And they were a little surprised at that, I guess, given your long journalistic experience.

DOUGLASS: Well, I was advocating for the health care initiative and
I was very critical of stories that were not accurate. There were also stories that were written which were not favorable to the administration, and I would open up the paper and look at that and say, ah, that’s a good story. He’s got it right.

You know, so it just depends on how you do your job. And I certainly try to do every job I do as well as I can.

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