Clintons Use Niche Media for Demographic Groups

Article excerpt

Sam Donaldson scored a 15-minute interview with President Clinton on the last day of his recent Africa trip. That may not be news, but the veteran ABC correspondent had to wait in line behind four black-oriented news organizations who were given coveted time with the president first.

For Americans who wanted news of the historic journey without any journalistic filtering, the White House set up a special Internet site and updated it frequently with photos and official texts.

Web users logged on 250,000 times.

Convinced that Americans increasingly are turning away from the mass media and seeking information from niche outlets that reflect their personal interests, the White House is following suit.

It is accelerating efforts to reach over and around the national press corps and communicate directly with defined demographic groups that may be sympathetic to, or at least especially interested in, a given policy initiative.

Thus, editors of top women's magazines were invited in last month for special presentations at Cabinet agencies and some time with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The evolving media strategy will be on display tonight, when Mr. Clinton appears on the ESPN cable sports channel for his second roundtable discussion on race.

"This'll be covered in the sports sections [of newspapers] and on ESPN SportsCenter. . . . It is getting a message across other than in the typical news cycle or in the CNN area," said Mike Soltys, ESPN's director of communications.

That is precisely what the White House had in mind when it contacted ESPN a few months ago and offered to make the president available for a forum on race and sports. It will be broadcast live from Houston and "cybercast" on the network's Internet site.

"We were looking at ways to engage larger and larger audiences," said White House communications director Ann Lewis, including people "who might not otherwise be involved in the dialogue."

ESPN's audience is heavily tilted toward men, but Mr. Soltys said the network's rap as "the white male network" is inaccurate. …