Source Material: Presidential Press Conferences: The Importance and Evolution of an Enduring Forum

Authors

  • MARTHA JOYNT KUMAR

    Corresponding author
    1. Towson University
      Martha Joynt Kumar is professor of political science at Towson University. She served as the director of the White House 2001 Project, which included the White House Interview Program. She is coauthor of Portraying the President.
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  • AUTHOR's NOTE: Funding for my work on presidential press conferences came from a Wilson H. Elkins grant from the University System of Maryland. Kenneth Simendinger, Gina Russell, and David Bloch also contributed to this research. My thanks go to all of them for their excellent detailed research work and to Toby Marotta who edited the piece.

Martha Joynt Kumar is professor of political science at Towson University. She served as the director of the White House 2001 Project, which included the White House Interview Program. She is coauthor of Portraying the President.

Abstract

When distinguishing among three important aspects of press conferences—importance as a forum, ground rules and practices, and participants—the sessions of the sixteen presidents can be grouped into four time periods. From 1913 to 1933, presidential press conferences were off-the-record sessions in which presidents responded to questions the press regarded as important. Between 1933 and 1953, presidents used it as a private forum for explaining their policies and actions to the public via journalists. From 1953 to 1981, presidents and their staffs wrestled with the advantages and disadvantages of using the now on-the-record press conferences to reach the public directly. During the last period, 1981 to 2004, presidents used such sessions as one of several forums in which they responded to reporters’ queries.

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