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.
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.