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What is the White House Press Corps?

Being part of the White House press corps is considered to be prestigious.
President Franklin Roosevelt was the first U.S. commander-in-chief to embrace the press.
The Press Secretary will occasionally hold meetings with the press to make announcements or answer questions about the government's stance on certain issues.
The White House Press Corps consists of members of various media outlets.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2014
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The White House Press Corps is a group of correspondents and journalists who are assigned to cover the White House in Washington, DC. This pool of journalists comes from a wide range of media all over the United States, with most major newspapers, magazines, and television networks being represented. They collectively file stories of interest related to the White House, and the posting is generally perceived as very prestigious. Correspondents who cover the workings of the legislature are called Congressional correspondents.

The modern form of the White House Press Corps emerged in the 1930s, when President Franklin Roosevelt realized that the press was a powerful medium, and he actively worked to make the White House, and the President, more news worthy. By the time of the Second World War, several news agencies were maintaining full time Washington staffs assigned specifically to the White House. These reporters sometimes had contentious relations with the administrations they covered, but they had become an enduring part of the Washington landscape.

Journalists in the White House Press Corps are briefed by the Press Secretary, a Presidential appointee who handles press conferences, briefings, and other publicity materials for the White House. The Press Secretary periodically holds meetings with the press to discuss the administration's stance on current issues, or to make announcements. At these meetings, the White House Press Corps are allowed to ask questions, and during important briefings, the scene can get chaotic at times with large numbers of journalists pressing their questions.

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Formal press conferences at the White House are televised, and they may on occasion include other officials. The Press Secretary also interacts with the press on an informal, but still on the record basis which may be recorded, but not generally televised. As a spokesperson for the Presidential administration, the Press Secretary is an important figure in American government.

Some people have criticized the White House Press Corps for being too cozy with government. Many critics believe that the role of the Press Corps is to provide cutting journalism, looking beneath the surface of formal announcements and press releases for details which may be of interest to the American public. These critics sometimes find the reporting from the White House less than satisfying. Some White House officials are hired specifically to woo the press in the hopes of building a favorable image in the media, and their activities certainly have an influence on White House correspondents.

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Discuss this Article

anon324046
Post 7

I wonder what perks they get. I am sure our tax dollars pay for free lunches for these biased liberals.

NathanG
Post 6

@summing - Helen Thomas was certainly the most storied of the journalists in the White House press corp, that’s for sure. But she was also the most controversial.

She was known to be a little rude in some of her questioning and she made the infamous comments about the Israelis and the Palestinians, which forced her into an early retirement.

I suppose it depends on your political point of view as to whether her comments were justified. But there’s no doubt she would cross a few lines here or there, and not flinch doing so.

everetra
Post 5

@nextcorrea - I’d have to agree. Whenever I watch the White House press corps attempt to extract useful information from the White House spokesperson, it’s a classic game of dodge ball.

Journalists try to get past the first dodge by asking more penetrating follow up questions, but all they get in return is more vanilla, plain generic responses.

I can understand the position of the White House. They probably feel like they’re in a tank full of sharks, and they want to be careful with their responses. Still, if they’re not going to provide information that is more useful than a press release, then there is really no point in having these meetings.

John57
Post 4

Whenever I am watching a press conference like this I always wonder how they determine the White House Press Corps seating chart.

All of the major news media companies are present, and how do they know who gets in the front as opposed to those in the back?

Getting a place in front may give you more opportunities to ask questions and interact with the White House Press Secretary.

Does this seating chart always stay the same, or is it on some kind of rotating basis?

myharley
Post 3

If you are a journalist and have an interest in politics and world events, I think being a part of the White House Press Corps would be an interesting and coveted job.

Any time there was any breaking white house news, you would be one of the first ones to be informed. It would be interesting to know what qualifications they are looking for when they have positions within this organization that need to be filled.

I would think it would need to be a seasoned journalist who is professional, discreet and trained very well in what they do.

nextcorrea
Post 2

I really wonder how much value the white house press briefings have. It seems like most presidents and other heads of state have prewritten statements that don't really reveal anything.

When they are asked tough questions they avoid them easily. When they cannot avoid them they simply end the press conference. You don't get any new information.

summing
Post 1

My favorite member of the white house press corps over the last few decades was Helen Thomas. She was a fantastic journalist, unflinching and objective. She could look a president in the eyes, the most powerful man in the world, and ask the most probing and unavoidable questions you have ever heard spoken to a head of state.

She is sadly missed in the press corps these days. There are other good journalists but none that are as tenacious and thorough as Helen Thomas

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