Obama Embarks on New Press Strategy by Taking Questions

Image: Obama Embarks on New Press Strategy by Taking Questions (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Tuesday, 05 Aug 2014 10:09 AM

By Melanie Batley

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President Barack Obama has been personally taking questions from the White House press corps roughly once a week in the last two months, a departure from the administration's communications policy and a signal of a shifting media strategy in advance of the midterm elections, Politico reported.

Twice last week, the president surprised the press by taking questions without pre-selection of reporters, and he also extended the times of the briefings as well. In the past, the president went months without talking to the media, Politico reported.

"The shifting media strategy is part of a new White House effort to jolt its communications operation, especially as Obama fights weak poll numbers and wages an intense campaign to keep the Senate in Democratic control this November," Politico said.

"It is a remarkable transformation," Ann Compton, an ABC News Radio White House correspondent who has covered the last seven presidents, told Politico.

The White House has acknowledged the shift in strategy.

"We've been strategic about choosing the optimal moments for the president to personally press his case in response to questions from journalists," Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, told Politico. "These exchanges give reporters valuable insight into his thinking that far exceeds the impact of a written readout, for example."

Earnest took over the post when Jay Carney stepped down in June, and made it a priority from day one to establish better relationships with reporters who cover the president, Politico reported.

"Is this all very deliberate? Yes," David Gergen, who has served as an adviser to four presidents, told Politico. "It has been carefully thought through, and there have been decisions on how to approach the press in the months running up to the midterm."

The new strategy has given the press more opportunities to ask questions on news of the day.

"Presidents cannot control the climate in a big formal news conference, the way he can dominate in a one-on-one interview with a reporter," Compton said. "It appears President Obama is willing to take a handful of short questions when there is real news breaking and, so far, seems to have gotten solid news-based questions, not weird off-the-wall or 'Why are you failing at everything?' questions."

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