Much of the White House press corps spent the Fourth schmoozing with White House staffers, catching performances by the Foo Fighters and Jimmy Fallon, and watching the fireworks from the most exclusive vantage point in the D.C. metro area, all off the record . . .(Via Instapundit.) Hanging out with your sources is not necessarily unethical -- what might be called "casual access" can be very valuable -- but this kind of intimacy with the Obama administration looks much worse in light of the fawning complacency in most of the White House press corps' coverage. One sees the puppet strings when the administration tries to suppress as "off-the-record" the very fact that officials and reporters are mingling at a social occasion.
The prestige of the White House is inherently intimidating. To become "chief White House correspondent" is a career pinnacle for most reporters -- short of becoming a network anchor or editor-in-chief, it's hard to go up from there -- and so there's a career risk in alienating the administration. If you piss off your sources, you lose access. If you make enough of a nuisance of yourself, your editors will get complaints, and you might get yanked off this very pretigious beat. When you see guys like Major Garrett or Jake Tapper get super-aggressive on the White House beat, it's because they know their editors have their backs.
Guys like Garrett and Tapper don't have to apologize for enjoying the Fourth of July schmooze-a-thon (if they were there), but the lapdogs in the press corps may need to do some explaining.