WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney took some pot shots at the press and today's "instantaneous" age of Twitter and new media Wednesday afternoon, in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Newspaper Association of America.
Romney began by talking about the "striking" changes to the media industry, comparing his first time running for president in 2008 to his current candidacy.
"Back then I would look on Drudge or FOX or CNN online to see how the stories were developing. And only hours after a speech, it was being dissected on the Internet," Romney said. "Now, of course we go to Twitter. It's instantaneous."
"In 2008, the coverage was all about what I might have said in a speech," he said. "Today it’s about what brand of jeans I'm wearing or what I had for lunch."
Romney, fresh off his wins in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington D.C.'s primaries on Tuesday, then said that he has noticed a decline of standards in journalism.
"In some of the new media, I find myself missing the presence of editors to exercise quality control," he said.
The former Massachusetts governor also took aim at the increasing use of unnamed sources.
"I miss the days of two or more sources for a story -- when at least one source was actually named," he said.
Romney softened his critique by thanking the newspaper editors in the audience for their work.
"I salute this organization and your various institutions that make it up in your effort to make it not only free, but also responsible, accurate, relevant and integral to the functioning of the democracy," he said. "Thank you for that work."
After his speech, Ken Paulson, the president of the ASNE, followed up with Romney in a question and answer session on the issue of anonymous sources:
Paulson: This may be a question of self-interest. Four years ago Senator John McCain spoke to us as the presumptive Republican nominee and he pledged then to support a federal law to help reporters protect confidential sources. Will you like Senator McCain support such legislation?
Romney: I haven't looked at that to be honest. And I want to give it consideration. I don't want to do what's politic and just say yes. I'll take a look at it. I have an unusual background, perhaps, for politics, and that was -- I'll describe a circumstance. We faced a decision in my state about whether to extend a line of our subway system. It was a very expensive decision. And my senior staff and a number of cabinet members and the head of our legal department came in and we've all met, we've gone through the pros and cons and we've decided that it's something we all endorse. They expected me to say fine, go ahead. And I said, does any one of you disagree with this? And they said no. And I said, I can't possibly make a decision to go ahead with the project unless I have someone in the room who vehemently opposes it. And the press is that viewpoint. So with regards to something of this nature I would want to hear the pros and cons. I imagine I could hear a lot of pros right here. I would like to hear if there are any cons and hear the back and forth. But after I've done so I'd be happy to give you an answer.
Paulson: I certainly respect that. I do wonder then, early in your remarks today you talked about you remember the good old days when there were multiple sources. You know, shield laws are all about giving reporters the right to talk to confidential sources and report stories that otherwise would have gone unreported. Do you see a role for confidential sources in American public life, in the press and in our view as a furtherance of democracy?
Romney: Do I see a role for confidential sources? Yes. Could I ever imagine a time when a source would need to be revealed? Yeah I can imagine that too. So I know that sounds like a conflict and that's why I'm going to have to give this a lot more thought and a lot more back and forth to understand which side of that I would finally come down on. But I'd want to hear from people in the industry, is there ever a time you would think a confidential source would be revealed or should be revealed, and if the answer is no I'd like to understand why that is the case and what the alternative is.
This article has been updated to reflect Romney's comments in a question and answer session after the speech.
Clarification: Romney spoke to both the ASNE and NAA.