Is there a long term threat in information disintermediation?
Perhaps the most interesting part of this year's White House Correspondent's Dinner was not the President, entertaining as he was, but could perhaps in one of the red carpet interviews with former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau.
For me, it was obvious from the CNN correspondent's questions that there was a strong undercurrent at the dinner. President Obama, who promised the most open Presidency of modern times, has very often taken his messages, as well as serious policy announcements, to untypical venues such as David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart and others.
According to Favreau, disintermediation of the internet has made it necessary to "follow the eyeballs," or go where the audience finds itself. Favreau, no longer at the White House, said at one time he even checked with famed expert David Axlerod, who defended the practice, in essense protesting that a President has a responsibilty to communicate however possible with the American people.
Yet, Brianna Keilar, a White House correspondent, shot back to Favreau that in two full years of covering the White House, she managed to ask President Obama two questions. Yes, one per year.
Of course she, and other White House reporters, are seasoned journalists who ask much tougher questions about the President's actions that Kimmel or Letterman. With Stewart, he had more courage and had a penetrating wit that wormed a very uncomfortable question with velvet delivery.
Despite protests from the White House press, Favreau said by their very nature, "it's their job" to complain about lack of access. With a light comment, the entire issue was put to rest and the jokes continued.
President Obama, for his part, gave the gathered journalists an eloquent defense of journalistic profession, though by every measure, its role is shrinking every day. With almost half of the country's wealth now in the hands of one percent of the population, and with remaining 99 percent having less and less of a forum to hold power accountable, this is an issue that, although easily swept under the rug, can with little notice sweep away much of what made this country great.
Plausibie deniability is the politician's best friend. Serious discourse of issues, discontent and objections are harder, if not now impossible to mount. Speaking truth to power is still possible, even though if only in the green room of Jimmy Kimmel.
President Obama is simply doing what the others in power are doing. To some extent, Favreau is right, yet the most troubling issue is the lack compulsion for the White House to do more to promote the discourse, even now they know now they don't have to.
Goodbye ABC, CBS and NBC. Hello YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Nuclear disarmament in twitterverse. Promises to be interesting. It's a slippery slope and only the President, by example, seems to be able to fix it.
Sure, the nation will rally to the gravest issues and some digital consensus will be obvious. It just leaves loads of wiggle room in the middle.