As the campaign season moves ever more firmly from the primary to the general election, Mitt Romney has decided that he needs a certain kind of media in his court. That would be right-leaning media, a group that, by and large, hasn't exactly embraced his inevitability as a nominee, and indeed, did its best at various points through the campaign season to prop up various also-rans — Santorum, Perry, Gingrich, Bachmann — who came armed with with shinier conservative credentials.
But Romney is what they're left with, and he's ready to hold hands. Yesterday, the presumptive nominee held an off-the-record meeting with RNC chairman Reince Preibus and 60 or so members of the conservative meeting, including writers from Pajamas Media, National Review, Daily Caller, American Spectator, Washington Examiner, and Right Wing News. One attendee described it as an "olive branch." Romney clearly wants more favorable coverage from the group in the general election, hewing to the assumption that the so-called mainstream media is all secretly in the tank for President Obama. But the conservative writers want some quid pro quo, it sounds like. HuffPo:
During a Q&A period, attendees brought up Fast and Furious, the botched U.S. gunrunning sting that conservative outlets have given more attention than the national media, along with concerns that the Romney campaign will continue leaking to establishment outlets, including ABC News and Politico, rather than conservative ones.
Whether the campaign actually will remains to be seen. There's evidence elsewhere that Romney isn't actually all that friendly to nontraditional media, in its snubbing of Buzzfeed from membership in Romney pool reporting, though the site has, like the Times and the Washington Post, been following the campaign on the trail and was invited by other covering media outlets to join. HuffPo, again:
"We have opened up our finance events for one wire and one print pool reporter to cover with the reports accessible to other media," Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, told The Huffington Post. "We do not have a separate blogger pool report."
Saul's comment suggests the campaign may consider BuzzFeed a blog and, for that reason, not eligible to be in the print pool. While BuzzFeed reporters write exclusively online, so do others in the "print" pool, such as The Huffington Post and Yahoo! News. Also, newspaper reporters routinely file dispatches from the trail that only appear online.
As for why the Romney campaign might be so stubborn on this front, Buzzfeed's approach to coverage is certainly cheekier than, say, the Washington Post's; they reach for meme-ification just as often as reporting — but they do plenty of scoopy reporting, a fact that doesn't go unrecognized by others in that world. "It concerns me that the Romney campaign would try to exclude any news organization from the pool," New York Times political editor Richard Stevenson told HuffPo. But taken together with yesterday's off-the-record meeting, it's clear that the Romney campaign wants to control the narrative as tightly as possible and is taking every remotely feasible precaution to do so.