martes, 17 de octubre de 2017

Is Trump more media-accessible than Obama?


April Ryan, left, the Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks gestures as she asks questions to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Rose Garden of the White House on Monday. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

Some reporters say yes, but his press events seem designed to make reporters look frenzied.

Jonathan Karl, the ABC White House reporter, had a surprising comment after Monday’s impromptu press conference by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “I have probably had more opportunities to ask questions of President Trump over the past two weeks than I had of President Obama during the last two years of his presidency.”

Not every member of the White House press corps – which has long been advocating for more White House press conferences – believes Trump is a media-friendly chief executive, but the president has seemingly decided that more interaction with reporters, albeit on his terms, serves his interests.

Monday’s press conference had not been listed on the president’s official schedule and, with scant time to set up chairs, reporters bunched in on the White House lawn. As Trump pointed out to call on different reporters, many took to shouting out their questions over each other.

It was the latest example of Trump shunning the traditional, formal press conference normally associated with the presidency in favor of more freewheeling, impromptu exchanges. Though reporters say they appreciate the opportunity to ask questions, the scene created by press conferences like today’s may provide the exact type of image that could help the president in his ongoing battle against the press.

“It maximizes his advantage. Less time to prepare, the press is a little caught off guard,” said one White House reporter. It’s not that reporters have a hard time coming up with questions on the fly, he said, but the scenes of reporters jostling with each other for space and shouting questions over each other—like they were today—creates “a visual that works for him.”

On the other hand, the reporter agreed with Karl that Trump takes questions from reporters more often than Obama.

Karl himself suggested that more questions – even in an atmosphere designed to make the media look more aggressive – are better than fewer questions.

“The President is taking questions much more frequently in recent weeks and that is a good thing,” the ABC reporter said. “There is no substitute for a formal press conference but, regardless of format, it is important to have the opportunity to ask the president questions and that is happening much more often.”

With McConnell standing by his side, Trump held forth for more than 30 minutes on topics from healthcare to Puerto Rico to the NFL. The only formal solo press conference he has held was back in February, shortly after he took office. According to UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project, Obama gave seven solo press conference in his first year, while George W. Bush gave four and Bill Clinton 11.

Meanwhile, Trump has taken to answering questions during pool photo ops and while departing from the South Lawn on Marine One, a move that Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said he borrowed from Ronald Reagan -- and used to contrast his own moving figure with an unruly mob of pursuers.

“We get a lot more formal news conferences from other presidents. Even recent ones tended to have more formal situations than Trump has or likes,” Sabato said. “He’s not very good in a formal setting. He doesn’t do well. He certainly doesn’t look or act very presidential. I think he’s aware of that.”

Sabato agreed that the spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff nature of Trump’s press availabilities puts reporters at a disadvantage.

“I don’t think it’s ideal,” he said, “You have people screaming and yelling, you don’t have follow ups. It makes the press look horrible, maybe that’s part of the reason.”

The White House reporter, who requested anonymity so that he could speak freely, said that reporters face an awkward dilemma: they risk not getting their question in if they don’t act in a way that comes off pushy or aggressive. Meanwhile, Trump can look presidential as he calls on the scrambling mass before him.

Some reporters, the White House correspondent said, “put their self-interest, their outlet’s interest before the greater good sometimes. A lot of screaming and shouting.”

“It’s a collective action problem. If every reporter were a little more dignified in that setting it would be a little bit better for everyone involved. It would produce more interesting answers, it would lower the spectacle and increase the news value. But it’s a challenging thing, it’s not for anyone to police. It requires to everyone to take a step back and calm down and take a breath.”

“I’m not criticizing the way people are asking questions,” he added. “I think everyone who saw that on television, there were moments when everyone cringed and thought, maybe we can do better.”

Margaret Talev, the senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg and White House Correspondents Association President, said in a statement, “The WHCA believes the president should regularly take questions from the reporters who cover him. We will continue to seek opportunities to ask the president questions, through official press conferences, shorter Q&As opportunities and photo opportunities.”

Spur of the moment press interactions were a staple of the Trump campaign as well, and Sabato said that we should expect them to continue.

“I think he was having a great time, certainly far more than McConnell,” Sabato said. “This is a presidency where only one person can speak for it, that’s Donald Trump. That’s what so interesting about it.”

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