White House works U.S. news cycle from Asia

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President Bush will give his main speech on Asia policy in Bangkok on Thursday morning. However, the White House released the speech early on Wednesday morning back here in the States.

It’s an example of how global, 24/7 news has made “getting out ahead of a story” the goal not only for  journalists but also for politicians.

In the speech, Mr. Bush will express “deep concerns over religious freedom and human rights” in China.

“The United States believes the people of China deserve the fundamental liberty that is the natural right of all human beings. So America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates, and religious activists,” said the president’s prepared remarks.

The White House calculation was that if it simply let the press cover the president’s speech as it happened, it wouldn’t even make it into the morning papers on Thursday in the United States. Bangkok is 11 hours ahead of the East Coast, and so Mr. Bush’s 9:30 a.m. speech in Bangkok on Thursday would take place at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday in Washington.

The morning papers still do play an important part in driving the daily news cycle, or cycles, and so although there would have been Web and TV coverage during the day on Thursday in the United States, the story would have been old and stale by the end of the day. The likelihood of front-page coverage on Friday morning would have been very small, and perhaps some papers might not have even included it in their print edition Friday, since in U.S. time, the speech is happening on Wednesday night.

By releasing the prepared text of the speech early on Wednesday, just after 5 a.m., the White House pushed it out into the very beginning of the U.S. news cycle, ensuring coverage for much of the day. Newspapers can also run a story Thursday morning that is still fresh, since the speech will have happened just hours before.

Releasing advance drafts of Mr. Bush’s speeches is one way in which the White House has been more proactive with its communications since Ed Gillespie, counselor to the president, joined the Bush administration last summer.

ADDENDUM: Just as I filed this post, another example of “getting out in front” surfaces. The New York Times Magazine this morning released online Matt Bai’s cover story, which won’t run until Sunday in print. The piece is titled, provocatively, “Is Obama the End of Black Politics?”

By releasing the piece midweek, it becomes part of the online conversation for the next few days and then will be chewed upon by the weekend TV pundits.

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