Presidential Press Conferences: A Critical Approach

By Carolyn Smith | Go to book overview
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spar, you can often use the early contact as a benchmark by which to assess later contact. In the early days we see how a freshly minted president would prefer to deal with the press, all controversy aside. Correspondent questions are more creative in the early days; reporters have to work harder on their questions in the absence of obvious controversy. It was not difficult to come up with a good consistency question when Ronald Reagan announced he sold arms to Iran secretly. Formulating a question that would make news in early 1981, at the outset of Reagan's first term, was a much more difficult task.

Press conference agendas run the gamut from single agendas to institutional agendas, where there seems to be no agenda at all. But in all cases, it is the agenda of the president and the agenda of the reporters that combine to form the agenda of the press conference. It is incumbent on the critic to discover the agenda in order to assess whether or not the president has been persuasive and the press has performed its proper watchdog role.


NOTES
1
Gerald Ford, A Time to Heal ( New York: Harper and Row, 1979), p. 153.
2
Ibid.
3
Ibid.
4
Ibid.
5
"The President's News Conference of August 28, 1974", in Public Papers of Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, August 9 to December 31, 1974 ( Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975), p. 56.
7
Ford, p. 154.
8
Ford discussed the influence the press conference had on his decision to pardon Richard Nixon in ibid., pp. 155-160.
9
"U.S. Military in Grenada, Reagan, Charles Announce", Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 41, no. 43 ( October 29, 1983): 2258.
12
"Reagan Statement on Marine Base Bombing", Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 41, no. 43 ( October 29, 1983): 2256-2258.
13
Ibid., p. 2257.
14
"Text of Reagan's Nov. 19 News Conference", Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 44, no. 47 ( November 22, 1986): 2947.
17
"Text of March 19 News Conference: The President and the Press Focus on Iran-Contra Affair", Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 45, no. 12 ( March 21, 1987): 532.

-91-

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