Media and press conferences

Just a reminder about the current row over media access to White House press conferences.
First, a question. When did you last see a press conference that was in any way revelatory? As in, some truly interesting information was revealed?
You’re probably scratching your head trying to remember.
Press conferences are not communication sessions. They are mostly performance art. Whoever is at the lectern spends most of their time attempting to send messages without revealing much of anything. The audience (the media) spends most of its time trying to trap or trip up the person at the lectern. It can be entertaining, but it’s seldom valuable news.
Secondly, think back to Watergate. Bernstein and Woodward did not uncover all of the various threads of malfeasance by going to press conferences and attending briefings. They rolled up their sleeves and did a lot of old-fashioned investigation, slowly connecting the dots on a conspiracy involving illegal behavior and deception.
The media does not need press conferences. They are nothing more than an age-old Punch and Judy show, and my cynical take is that many political leaders use them as a distraction. My rule of governance is “always look behind the curtain”. I think the mass media would be a lot more impactful and credible if they blew off press conferences and off the record briefings in favor of investigative journalism. It’s been out of fashion for a long time because it costs money and takes time. However, if you want to really understand what is going on behind the scenes in the US government, which is horrendously complex, there are no short cuts.


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