Presidential Press Conferences: A Critical Approach

By Carolyn Smith | Go to book overview

press conference, and in each and every question and answer. The roles are not contrary to one another; rather, they exist as parts of the whole -- the inherent tension between the president and the press. Presidential leadership through persuasion and press accountability through constant questioning and probing are a part of the same universe.


SUMMARY

Public persuasion is a principle task for any president and, in the modern world of instantaneous communications, an increasingly important function of presidential leadership. Mediation of the president's message by the press is an integral part of the president's efforts to persuade. One of the ways in which the press mediates presidential messages is through direct question-and-answer sessions with the president, and the reporting and interpretation of those sessions. These press conferences differ from all other communication formats because they are semi-institutionalized, quasi-spontaneous, and inherently adversarial. Learning to criticize press conferences depends partially on the realization that the press conference legitimately encompasses the conflicting goals of presidential leadership and press accountability. The tension between the two is a natural tension, and our criticism ought to reflect the tension, not suppress it. In the next three chapters, as we develop methods for press conference criticism, we will consider both the role of the press and the role of the president.


NOTES
1
Steven R. Weisman, "Can the Magic Prevail", New York Times. April 29, 1984, sec. 6, p. 46.
2
Richard E. Neustadt, Presidential Power. The Politics of Leadership ( New York: John Wiley, 1960), p. 10.
3
Samuel Kernell, Going Public ( Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1986), p. viii.
5
Doris Graber, Mass Media and American Politics, 2d ed. ( Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1984), p. 222.
7
Weisman, p. 39.
8
Cited by Sam Donaldson, "Inside the White House -- ABC NEWS 20/20", ABC-TV ( July 17, 1986), transcript no. 628, p. 14.
9
Ibid.
10
Ibid.
11
"Text of Reagan Q&A Session with Reporters", Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 42 no. 38 ( September 22, 1984): 2330.
12
For example, in Going Public Samuel Kernell attributed the standard

-77-

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Presidential Press Conferences: A Critical Approach
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword xi
  • Notes xiii
  • Introduction: the Limits of Press Conference Reform xv
  • Notes xix
  • Chapter One - The Adversarial Relationship 1
  • Notes 12
  • Chapter Two - Evolution of the Adversarial Press Conference 15
  • Notes 52
  • Chapter Three - Persuasion and Accountability: Press Conference Goals 65
  • Notes 77
  • Chapter Four - The Press Conference Agenda 79
  • Notes 91
  • Chapter Five - The Press Conference Structure 93
  • Notes 108
  • Chapter Six - Good Questions and Good Answers 109
  • Notes 123
  • Chapter Seven - Reagan and the Press: Establishing The Benchmark 125
  • Notes 139
  • Chapter Eight - A Criticism of the Opening Salvo 143
  • Notes 202
  • Chapter Nine - The "Jelly Bean Lottery": An Experiment in Tepidness 209
  • Notes 241
  • Selected Bibliography 245
  • Index 255
  • About the Author 261
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