Stenographer Banished to Closet

There is a whole lot of fail here:

“Scott – You have our sincere apologies for the lack of a better hold room today,” wrote Vice President Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander last Wednesday to Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers.

“Lack of a better hold room” is an interesting way of putting it. In order to keep Powers from mingling with guests at a Democratic fundraiser last Wednesday, Powers was escorted into a storage closet by a Biden staffer.

Powers was the designated pool reporter, there to record the proceedings for the press corps in general.

He told ABC News that he showed up at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday to cover Vice President Biden and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., attending a $500-a-head fundraiser at the Winter Park manse of developer Alan Ginsburg.

A young female staffer met him at the door and brought him to the storage closet.

“You’re going to have to wait in here until the VP gets here,” he says she told him.

“You’re kidding me,” he recalls responding.

I have absolutely NO idea what the Biden team was thinking. I saw a picture of the mansion, and I know there has to be at least one room that he could have been in other than a storage closet. This is just disastrous work from Biden’s staff, and you can expect a lot of catty pieces from the Beltway boys about this.

But the bigger question to me is why does the press allow itself to be locked in a holding room in the first place? What kid of reporting is that? What self-respecting “reporter” would agree to those terms? It’s absurd. You’re a reporter, not a stenographer, you should have full access or refuse to cover it. If they just want you to print about Biden’s speech, tell them to send you a copy via email, that you have better things to do. And then savage them in the press until they realize not giving you access is worse than giving you unrestricted access. Hell, the media in Libya have better access.

Powers says the situation was never “rectified.” Any time he stuck his head out he’d been shooed back inside. He said he was held for more than an hour in the closet, was allowed out for 35 minutes of remarks by Biden and Nelson, after which it was back into the closet until the VP left.

The proper response to being “shooed back inside” a closet buy some staffer is to tell them to go fuck themselves, walk out with your head up, and then proceed to make their lives miserable in your paper. Not to whine about it after accepting the treatment. They have to be hiding something, right? Otherwise why do they want you in a holding room? And why do you call yourself a reporter and let them treat you that way?

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62 replies
  1. 1
    Rob says:

    Thing is if he was the pool he really couldn’t leave. The whole pool idea is just weird of course. It basically could be served by released remarks and a schedule of events and photos.

  2. 2
    madmommy says:

    Because if he’d made a stink then he might never get invited to the cool kid’s parties ever again. Remember that old quote about not picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel?

    And can anyone truthfully say that they picked both Virginia Commonwealth and Butler to make the Final Four?

  3. 3
    El Tiburon says:

    Id like to say this was shocking. But I can’t.

  4. 4
    BGinCHI says:

    It was a fundraiser hosted by Alan Ginsburg??

    I would have taken my clothes off in the closet and come bursting out shouting “Howl” at the top of my lungs.

    Or “Sunflower Sutra” if I wanted to be more low-key.

  5. 5
    Corner Stone says:

    He was supposed to “report” what, exactly?
    Masters of The Universe are Masterful?

  6. 6
    SteveinSC says:

    Why didn’t he tell them to fuck off? Well the reporter, like most of them, had checked his hat at the door and his balls at the office, of course.

  7. 7
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    The closet is a terrible place to be.

  8. 8
    FlipYrWhig says:

    It sounds bad. But it sounds like there’s some nomenclature issue between a “hold room,” a “storage room,” and a “closet.” If there’s space for a table and chair, and “open space” besides, calling it a “closet” and using words like “shoved” seem to color and spin the story in a deliberately embarrassing way. Yes, staffers should know better than to provide grounds for someone to complain about being “shoved” in a “closet.”

    Oh, I just googled it, and of course the right wing media machine is all over this. Sigh. Even though Powers himself seems only mildly annoyed.

  9. 9
    Svensker says:

    Seriously? And then he talked about it?

    And then they beat me and I said, ‘Like, stop!’ and then they kicked me and I said, ‘Oh please don’t’ and then they gave me some cake and I said, ‘Yum! Thanks! What are we doing next week?’

    Folks aren’t embarrassed by much anymore, are they?

  10. 10
    Corner Stone says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Is there anything you’re upset about?

  11. 11
    D0n Camillo says:

    I don’t think Washington reporters have ever been known to buck the system for the most part. I.F. Stone was very much the exception rather than the rule, I’m afraid. The fact that Powers is complaining is a sign of progress of sorts. Under the previous administration he’d probably be so grateful not to have been waterboarded that he would have kept quiet about the whole thing.

  12. 12
    Mark S. says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Here’s a picture of it. It’s hard to tell how big it is, but there’s all sorts of shit in there.

  13. 13
    BGinCHI says:

    @Svensker: He got an A in Journalism 308: Reporting from the Closet. His friends told him the class sounded gay, but it turned out to be really helpful in his job.

  14. 14
    BGinCHI says:

    I just checked the bedroom closet. James O’Keefe wasn’t in there.

    Countdown till he does a film from a Dem politician’s closet, trussed up like Houdini.

  15. 15
    Warren Terra says:

    I think he should make their lives hell about it, and maybe should have made a scene at the event – but I also agree with Rob that as the pool reporter he had an obligation to remain on hand in case news happened; that’s the purpose of the pool. The pool is both an institution and a group of people to which he had responsibilities, so he couldn’t easily storm off however provoked. You can question whether the pool is useful (I have my doubts), but while storming off would have meant standing up for his own dignity and the dignity of his profession, including other pool members, he would have left the whole pool system in the lurch.

  16. 16
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Corner Stone: I get upset about the way people spread stories virally to one another without checking them first. I don’t trust political reporters at all.

    @Mark S.: The composition of the picture makes it look as tight as possible. The description of the space in the linked Tapper piece doesn’t match up that well with that picture, which suggests to me that there’s more space somewhere.

    It’s still stupid to create the opportunity for someone to kvetch about being “shoved” in a “closet.” The impression is still bad. I’m just REALLY skeptical about the stories reporters tell.

  17. 17
    Corner Stone says:

    @Warren Terra:

    but while storming off would have meant standing up for his own dignity and the dignity of his profession, including other pool members, he would have left the whole pool system in the lurch.

    Bullshit. He could’ve nutted up for the whole group. A closet FFS?

  18. 18
    Corner Stone says:

    @FlipYrWhig: You know, fiction.

  19. 19
    Citizen_X says:

    @Warren Terra:

    The pool is both an institution and a group of people to which he had responsibilities, so he couldn’t easily storm off however provoked.

    He could have just said “No”/”Fuck no”/whatever, and if they wouldn’t stand for that, they would have had to force him off the premises, thus becoming part of the story. He doesn’t have to “storm off” to stand up for himself.

  20. 20
    OzoneR says:

    This actually happens much more often than this. This isn’t uncommon at all

  21. 21
    Corner Stone says:

    @BGinCHI:

    Countdown till he does a film from a Dem politician’s closet, trussed up like Houdini

    Is it just me who’s a little wigged out by the commercials with the girl outside of her first date’s house? And then one where she’s in the AC vent?
    I think it’s Android.
    That young lady skeeves me out more than a hyperbolic post by someone who can’t be criticized.

  22. 22
    James E Powell says:

    he would have left the whole pool system in the lurch.

    How much of a lurch is it to miss out on yet another fundraiser or the remarks of the big shots in attendance? If any pool member were to be more pissed at the ‘reporter’ for leaving than Biden’s team for putting him in a closet, he is an ass and a half.

  23. 23
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @OzoneR: Powers seems to actually say as much in the post linked by Mark S.. He’s treating it as an example of his unglamorous life, not his being silenced by goons.

  24. 24
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Corner Stone: Those commercials are weird. They could practically be PSAs for how important it is to think about the level of privacy you want for your social-media presence, but instead it’s basically played for laughs: our products increase your ability to stalk and pry, haha! It’s just shy of saying that a phone’s video-capture function is ideal for stashing in a gym locker room. Ick.

  25. 25
    Mark S. says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I reenacted it in a Barbie Dream House and it’s really fucking cramped. I had to decapitate Ken just to fit him in there.

  26. 26
    Maude says:

    Does this have to do with the Secret Service and protection?

  27. 27
    Dennis SGMM says:

    Spokeshole: Here, eat this shit sandwich.
    Reporter: A Shit sandwich? No way!
    Spokeshole: If you don’t eat the shit sandwich then you lose your access.
    Reporter: Can I have some mayo on that?

  28. 28
    Citizen_X says:

    @Mark S.: Yes, but Ken has more balls than this reporter.

  29. 29
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mark S.: A similar method reveals that Bradleys can’t run over dogs in Iraq.

  30. 30
    drkrick says:

    @Corner Stone: The classic explanation/excuse is “what happens if somebody shoots the VP and there are no reporters there?” The fact that none of the networks got film of JFK getting shot is considered a bigger tragedy than the shooting itself in some journalistic circles, and they’re determined not to leave any similar future event uncovered.

    The canny WHPO knows how to exploit that fear in order to impose ridiculous restrictions, but perhaps they managed to overplay it in this case.

    edited to use letters instead of numbers in the word shoots.

  31. 31
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Maude: Doubtful that the Secret Service is overly concerned with the movements of one reporter who has already passed clearance to travel in the pool. More likely, the host of the event doesn’t want a reporter with too much time on his hands opening drawers…

  32. 32
    Mark S. says:

    @Maude:

    Doubt it. He was only let out once Biden gave his talk and then put back in after Biden was done. I think it’s to protect the rich donors.

  33. 33
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mark S.: It also seems to have to do with the difference between the “private” and “public” parts of the event. VIP gives a speech: public. Guests at a party: private. Creating a room to keep the guy out of the “private” part of the event while allowing him to cover the “public” part seems like a potential compromise.

  34. 34
    coloradoblue says:

    The MOTU really have us proles well trained, don’t they? It is no wonder I no longer get so little of my news from papers and magazines, and none from the TV machine unless it is spot news like the recent Japanese problems.

  35. 35
    Bob Loblaw says:

    Oh, America. I can never stay mad at you.

  36. 36
    Chad N Freude says:

    I think it’s to protect the rich donors.

    Ya think? No opportunity to ask questions of the donors, no opportunity to overhear a conversation, no opportunity see a donor do something (like eat shrimp while wearing a yarmulke), no opportunity to see if someone in the room is not on the official invitees list. Etc, etc, and so forth.

  37. 37
    Calouste says:

    You’re a reporter, not a stenographer,

    I think the post made sense up till this point.

  38. 38
    maus says:

    They have to be hiding something, right?

    I thought the job of a journalist was to take people at face value? Or am I missing the point to the modern media.

  39. 39
    mk3872 says:

    Why would they have invited a reporter to a fundraiser to begin with ????

  40. 40
    Calouste says:

    OT: Looks like Baden-Württemberg (the third largest state in Germany) is going to have a Green/Soc1alist government coalition, with the Greens being the slightly larger party and thus providing the PM. This is pretty much direct fallout from Fukushima.

  41. 41
    Corner Stone says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    It also seems to have to do with the difference between the “private” and “public” parts of the event. VIP gives a speech: public. Guests at a party: private. Creating a room to keep the guy out of the “private” part of the event while allowing him to cover the “public” part seems like a potential compromise.

    I don’t think anything more needs to be said.

  42. 42
    Mike G says:

    “What I really objected to was that Biden didn’t give me a juvenile nickname and make sneering flip remarks like Bush. Then I would have lapped up my shabby treatment and been grateful for whatever crumbs I was thrown,” Powers should have said.

    The White House puppy press disgraced themselves in the Bush years acting like trained seals, happy to be treated like crap and still eagerly do the bidding of that mendacious pack of criminal garbage. So I don’t feel much sympathy for them now.

  43. 43
    Silver says:

    @Chad N Freude:
    Ya think? No opportunity to ask questions of the donors, no opportunity to overhear a conversation, no opportunity see a donor do something (like eat shrimp while wearing a yarmulke), no opportunity to see if someone in the room is not on the official invitees list. Etc, etc, and so forth.

    This was so good, it deserves to be here twice. Bravo.

  44. 44
    WaterGirl says:

    @mk3872: I know, I know! Because the white house reporters are a big bunch of whiny babies who make a fuss if they don’t get to be part of every single thing that happens?

  45. 45
    Suck It Up! says:

    Storage closet is not the proper place for the media. They wouldn’t like my alternative holding place.

  46. 46
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Corner Stone: Dude, I know you enjoy picking fights, but, as we’ve been over many times before, I’m talking about _why they would do what they did_, not why it’s _right_ to do what they did. Clearly Biden’s people determined that they wanted to limit the reporter to covering the _public_ portion of the event, and ushered him away from the _private_ portion of the event. Biden’s people didn’t invent that distinction. It’s fairly well established. If you think it’s wrong, talk about that. I’m talking about why the situation occurred in the first place.

  47. 47
    Anne Laurie says:

    This is quite reminiscent of the Plight of the Governess/Tutor in traditional British novels (like Jane Eyre… or, for that matter, Stoppard’s ARCADIA). Reporters are not, to the MoTU, exactly servants — sure, they depend for their livings on the ‘generosity’ of their employers, but they’re also a better class than the wretches of the catering staff. Maybe some of those reporters should make time to watch the new JE movie and see if it inspires them to stand up for their dignity as human beings…

  48. 48
    Church Lady says:

    @Mark S.: The lone bottle of water on the “desk” he was provided to work on is a nice touch.

  49. 49
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Anne Laurie: And Scott Powers is Bertha Rochester!

  50. 50
    Phoebe says:

    That’s where the SLA put Patty Hearst! They called it “The People’s Prison”.

  51. 51
    Chad N Freude says:

    Somewhat OT but relevant, I just ran across this Felix Salmon blogpost about Bill Keller of the NYT. I think this should get some face time on BJ.

  52. 52

    @FlipYrWhig:

    not as bad as the state farm commercials where, you can get a hot tub, a hot guy, the girl in 4d, a sandwich, whatever you want, by saying the slogan, and having their rep show up shazaam style…

    if they aren’t soliciting insurance fraud, i don’t know what is.

  53. 53

    its a shame biden himself didn’t know this was going on, he coulda had a swayze moment, “nobody puts random pool reporter in a closet”

  54. 54
    D-Chance. says:

    I find it surprising that Biden could keep his speech to only 35 minutes…

    As to the reporter, meh. I don’t see the big deal. It’s not as if he were going to break any real news, anyway. Seems to be much ado about nothing.

  55. 55
    Gina says:

    The best way to read your last paragraph is in the voice of R. Lee Ermey.

  56. 56
  57. 57
    Nutella says:

    @Warren Terra:

    He was the pool reporter, not the pool stenographer. If he had an obligation to the other reporters breathlessly awaiting the ‘news’ he was collecting he didn’t fulfill it by sitting in the hold room while news was happening, whether the hold room was a closet or a bowling alley.

    The really sad thing is that it’s only the particular choice of room that everyone’s going to get all excited about when they all should be saying “I’ll just look around on my own and take notes” to their handlers every damn day.

    But they won’t. It’s all theater.

  58. 58
    Pongo says:

    I agree he should have had the cojones to say ‘f**k you’ to these guys, but the bigger issue is how ANYONE on Biden’s staff could have been this idiotic. This is totally on them and there are simply no excuses that justify the colossally bad (and totally deserved) horrendous press that anyone older than 7 should have been able to predict would happen from this move. It’s the dumbness that kills me–more than the rudeness and lack of professionalism. Does he really have people this stupid running his media operation?

  59. 59
    Bobby Thomson says:

    At least they didn’t strip him naked.

  60. 60
    AAA Bonds says:

    The proper response to being “shooed back inside” a closet by some staffer is to tell them to go fuck themselves, walk out with your head up, and then proceed to make their lives miserable in your paper.

    I just wanted to say that this was a good sentence and it made me feel good when I read it.

    Any decent editor would get behind this response.

  61. 61
    minerva taylor says:

    Apparently the aid that put him there was not from the south. My granny woulda beat my but if I had put a guest in the closet.

  62. 62
    mantis says:

    A word from Powers himself:

    How my wait in a closet almost brought down the White House

    That was news to me.

    My paper and I conspired to cover this up, to protect Vice President Joe Biden and his staff from charges they had imprisoned me at a fundraiser last week.

    That was news to me too.

    In fact, a lot of details circulating through the blogosphere — and into some mainstream media — about my coverage of Biden’s fundraising visit to a Winter Park home last Wednesday were news to me.

    Take a couple details of information, toss them into the Internet and it can become like a child’s game of telephone — with each rendition adding spin and details. Only in this politically-charged environment, those spin and details can crystallize toward scandal. That’s especially true when it involves the vice president of the United States in an administration that has enraged a segment of American society

    Full story at the link.

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