As observed by the Daily Beast, Biden’s Department of Communications issued a request to the media, asking for all reporters to provide their questions to staff at the White House prior to to the Press Secretary’s daily briefings. This request presumably aims to avoid scrutiny from reporters over more difficult subject matters.
On Friday, this particular issue became a point of discussion while a White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) meeting took place.
Reporters have purportedly become angered over this request, which fearing it may further magnify the perception of preplanned coordination between the media and the White House.
As one White House reporter commented to the Daily Beast, “that’s not really a free press at all.”
The reporter also noted that seeing the daily briefings return is a relief, “particularly with a commitment to factual information,” but the report also added that the media can’t fulfill its responsibilities in the briefing room “if the White House is picking and choosing the questions they want.”
On the contrary, leaders of the SHCA have ordered reporters to either “push back” against this request, or refuse to comply altogether.
While Trump largely eliminated White House daily briefings, Biden’s communication team has pledged to bring back daily briefings, and the team has followed through on this pledge thus far.
In response to the WHCA’s position, Biden insisted that requesting questions in advance is not an effort to avoid questions, but rather to understand the main pulse of reporting on that particular day.
Per a spokesperson, the goal of the daily briefings is to be “as useful and informative as possible for both the reporters and the public.” Furthermore, the spokesperson also noted that the Biden communication team’s regular engagement with the reporters is motivated by understanding which information they need the most, which in turn will be “an important part of keeping the American people updated about how government is serving them.”
In addition, Eric Schultz, who previous worked as a deputy press secretary for Obama, insisted that the communication team’s request is largely normal, as it simply provides staff sufficient time to prepare for daily briefings.
Per Schultz, “this is textbook communications work”, as briefings can rapidly lose their meaning if the White House Press Secretary “has to repeatedly punt questions” rather than “coming equipped” for proactive discussions with reporters.
Schulz also added that, in a pre-COVID world, casual conversations normally took “throughout the day in lower and upper press”, which enabled an administration to “get a very quick sense” of what reporters were working on.