Julia Ewan-The Washington Post

Inside Media: In the White House Press Corps

August 29, 2009

Guest: Michael Fletcher

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

Access. It’s what Michael Fletcher wishes he had more of.

As one of four Washington Post reporters covering the White House, Fletcher keeps close tabs on President Barack Obama, but said off-the-record moments are few and far between.

"Obama is not chummy with us," Fletcher said, adding that the president often has his guard up with the press corps.

"It’s not an antagonistic relationship, but there is this distance. You get this sense of, ‘We can’t let the press in because they’ll misuse the opportunity,’" he said.

Having covered the White House since President George W. Bush’s second term, Fletcher sees similarities regarding the access allowed to both presidents and key people in their administrations.

"The Bush administration stayed on message and didn’t pull back the curtain too much. They would not put you in contact with policy people," he said. "This White House wants to know where you’re going with the story first, then they’ll make policy people available on their terms."

While it can be a winding road to getting the story, Fletcher never loses sight of why he’s really there.

"It’s to hold public officials accountable and to explain to people the importance of what they’re doing," Fletcher said.

He is no stranger to the task either, having spent 13 years at The Baltimore Sun covering local and state politics.

"I don’t think what I do [now] is any different," he added.

It’s also why Fletcher remains committed to building relationships at the White House, even if, as he points out, "it’s a brick-by-brick process."

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