Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What's the point of White House press briefings?

Bush press secretary Scott McClellan has this to say to his counterpart in the Obama administration, Robert Gibbs:

My view is that the press-briefing model that is used now is kind of outdated. It ought to be more along the lines of the Pentagon briefing model, where you’re bringing in on a regular basis--maybe even two to three times a week--key officials from the White House or Cabinet secretaries to participate in these briefings and help educate the press and the public.

I think that too often in this day and age, because it’s live and on camera all the time, the press briefing becomes about bobbing and weaving and ducking instead of about educating and informing. A press secretary is only authorized to go so far. … Like right now, with the economy being at the forefront, bring in Larry Summers or Secretary Geithner on certain days when you’re trying to push forward a certain message there. We did it some; in hindsight, I wish we had done it even more. It benefits everybody.
Matthew Yglesias basically agrees with McClellan, and pushes the point further:
In terms of the basic briefing material, this could just as easily be emailed out to everyone on the press list. Meanwhile, the Q&A sessions that exist now are useless as a source of actual information. Reporters ask questions that they know perfectly well won’t be answered, and then the press secretary does his best to dodge him. Nine days out of ten, the result is a not-very-amusing spectacle for mid-day C-SPAN viewers. If the world is lucky, the Press Secretary commits some kind of gaffe. But nothing real is ever learned. 
McClellan’s idea, by contrast, holds some promise. The White House could bring out whoever they wanted. But the expectation would be clear—you brought these people out to talk about something in particular, and they’re really expected to talk about it.
I wonder how Robert Gibbs himself feels about all this. Let's see...

Robert? Robert? Robert? Robert? Robert?


Jeffrey said...

It can't work in reality, that is exactly what I suppose.
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