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Looking for Friendly (Local) Faces

In the Texas press corps, the natives are getting restless.

Rick Perry in Derry, N.H., on Sept. 30, 2011

In the Texas press corps, the natives are getting restless.

Despite longstanding relationships with the Texas governor and his staff, their requests to interview Rick Perry — anywhere, at any time — about his presidential bid have largely been ignored. Out on the campaign trail, they, and the national press, for that matter, get next to no access. No sit-down interviews. No casual chats in the back of a campaign bus. There’s been just one press gaggle in recent memory.

One of Perry’s chief advisers effectively confirmed the trend at a campaign stop in Iowa, telling The Texas Tribune frankly: “We’re only doing local press.”

Veteran Dallas Morning News political reporter Wayne Slater said Perry’s antics bear little resemblance to the presidential campaign of another Texas governor, George W. Bush, “who remained somewhat accessible to the Texas media even as he ran in 2000.”

But it should come as no surprise that the Texas media is in Perry’s rear view mirror — it’s his tried and true campaign strategy. In Sasha Issenberg’s e-book “Rick Perry and His Eggheads,” he writes about how the content analysis Perry’s strategists did during his 2006 gubernatorial race proved that on-the-ground press in far-flung communities was far better than what came out of the capitol press corps.

Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger says the Texas press corps shouldn’t take it personally. “He has a limited amount of time to do these interviews, between grassroots events, political events, fundraisers,” she says. “You guys know him pretty well, Texans know his record. It takes a lot of time to introduce him to the rest of the nation.”

Indeed, repeated requests from the Tribune, the Morning News, WFAA-TV and other Texas outlets have been ignored since Perry announced his presidential bid, despite the governor's one-on-one interviews with a local radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, and an ABC affiliate in Las Vegas.

And while Perry has done some limited, and relatively controlled, press with mainstream outlets — he was interviewed by Time in September and Parade this month — he has largely favored the conservative press.

In August and September he gave exclusive interviews to conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, FoxNews host Sean Hannity and Newsmax.tv, a right-leaning news organization.

At the Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. on Oct. 7, Slater asked for an interview and was told the governor was too busy. That same day, Perry interviewed with the Christian Broadcast Network.

The next week, on the day of Perry’s jobs speech in Pittsburgh, Pa., the local Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked if the governor would sit for an interview. He declined — instead heading across town to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, a conservative paper owned by Richard Mellon Scaife.

Whatever his media strategy, it appears to be working, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. A study released this week indicates Perry has received more news coverage — and more of it positive — than any of his presidential opponents.

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