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Perry's Media Strategy: Ignore Texas Press

As he runs for president, Gov. Rick Perry isn't working his old relationships with the Texas press. He's busy creating new ones — in the states critical to his campaign.

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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 very little access. No sit-down interviews. No casual chats in the back of a campaign bus. Tuesday's press conference after Perry released his tax and spending plan was rare; there have been two brief ones in the last month.  

One of Perry’s chief advisers effectively confirmed the trend at a campaign stop in Iowa, telling the Tribune: “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 rearview 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 said 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 said. “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 Dallas Morning News, WFAA-TV and other Texas outlets have been ignored since Perry announced his presidential bid, despite Perry’s one-on-one interviews with a local radio station in Des Moines, Iowa and an ABC affiliate in Las Vegas, among others.

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

In August and September he gave exclusive interviews to conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, Fox News 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 with Perry 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 last week indicates the Texas governor has received more news coverage — and more of it positive — than any of his presidential opponents.

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