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  • What I don’t know about White House Press Briefings, but would like to

    Posted by TM Lutas on April 25th, 2016 (All posts by )

    I’m currently doing background work on creating an oversight site for the White House press briefings. It’s an interesting, small project with the potential for outsized visibility because of who it is aimed at and will be covering. But there’s a good bit of research that needs to be answered before a site goes up:

    1. I don’t know what all the stakeholders in the White House Press Briefing consider to be a successful press conference.
    2. I don’t know who asks good questions.
    3. I don’t know what constitutes a good question, or a good answer.
    4. I don’t know how to get a day pass.
    5. I don’t know how to get a hard pass.
    6. I don’t know who shows up.
    7. I don’t know how question opportunities are distributed.
    8. I don’t know how it all matters to the task of informing the public.

    If you’ve got insight into these questions or additions I should put on my research agenda, please let me know in comments.

    Update:
    Just found this

     

    9 Responses to “What I don’t know about White House Press Briefings, but would like to”

    1. Grurray Says:

      I don’t know the answers, but it sounds like a good idea.

      They claim to be using lean/six sigma principles to streamline government (albeit only sporadically effective at the lowest levels). I’ve never heard of it done yet, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t do the same with journalism.

    2. PenGun Says:

      I guess 4 and 5:

      http://www.whca.net/

    3. Andrew_M_Garland Says:

      The public needs a slogan: Show your work!

      People tolerate our officials not writing anything, or more accurately not revealing anything. Hillary threw away her records. Congress passes legislation before reading it. The legislation is designed to be massive and unreadable, but it is based on analysis which is written and hidden. Press conferences are a substitute for reasoned and explained policy.

      We need a popular movement to make this unacceptable. They say they have plans and research support, so let’s see it. Force them to reveal the plans so that we can see they are (not?) gibberish. At least we can shout a nice slogan.

      Possibly: Write it down, or you’re a clown.

    4. brer rabbit Says:

      a reporter who asks the wrong question, or betrays a powerful person loses his/her job. As everyone knows, there are many questions that are never asked. Reporters at these high levels know what is forbidden

    5. TMLutas Says:

      PenGun – If the White House Correspondent’s Association were the source to turn to for that, they would have already made this site 15 years ago.

      Brer Rabbit – So long as they are the only people asking questions, it’s difficult to see how much stronger other questions would be. If only there were some facility that could gather up alternate questions that could be compared to the ones actually being asked…

    6. PenGun Says:

      “If the White House Correspondent’s Association were the source to turn to for that, they would have already made this site 15 years ago.”

      I just answered 4 and 5 as you do not seem to know where to get a pass.

      “4. I don’t know how to get a day pass.
      5. I don’t know how to get a hard pass.”

      It’s the White House Correspondent’s Association that issues those.

      The entire point of the white house press briefings is to present the government’s view in a regularly scheduled event. As we have recordings of the entire thing, each time, analysis is easy.

      Your oversight of this process is entirely up to you of course, but we can all see what happened and what was said.

      As you refuse, or are unable, to do the work involved in actually writing the code for this, you will have to adapt one of the many available children of nuke to your purpose. I had code in nuke once. ;)

    7. Anonymous Says:

      I consider all press secretaries professional liars and spinmiesters, so I pay no attention at all to anything they say.

    8. TMLutas Says:

      PenGun – I’m not entirely sure how to get a day pass or a hard pass, but I do know that it is *not* the WHCA that issues those.

      What is most interesting in those conferences is what is not said because a particular member of the press is frozen out by not being called on. Is there a pattern to that (there seems to be) and does that pattern skew coverage of the White House? Does the skew serve the people of the United States or does this skew damage our ability to oversee the government? A transcript does not give you the answers to any of that.

      It may be, in fact, that analysis is easy. That doesn’t mean that the analysis has ever been done, nor that it is being done on a regular basis using consistent rules in a fair manner. What do you think is the KPI that would be most important to tease out in that ‘easy’ analysis?

      While I understand that you are probably referring to PHP-Nuke, your reference was probably lost on the majority of readers. For those unfamiliar:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PHP-Nuke
      https://www.phpnuke.org/

      Anonymous – There are some moments of truth that it is possible to squeeze out of even the most inveterate of professional liars and spinmeisters. This is a particular subspecialty of journalism. This work product may not be of interest to you but it is of interest to the verticals engaged in handling the 1/3 to 1/2 of US yearly production that runs through the public sector.

    9. PenGun Says:

      “PenGun – I’m not entirely sure how to get a day pass or a hard pass, but I do know that it is *not* the WHCA that issues those.”

      Indeed, they issue their own credentials. It’s The Office of the Press Secretary that you have to write to to get credentials. At least that’s what some people have done. The exact requirements are murky.

      In any press conference on this planet there will be an agenda of some kind. It’s not impossible to run a bias free conference but it’s gonna be rare. Still with the transcript, the video and a knowledge of who is present, it will not be difficult to identify those agendas. And this is not really the whole story anyway, volume and conviction, move far more people than the simple truth.