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The Biden Presser Was Awful, and It's the Reporters' Fault

Critics pile on White House press corps for repetitive and superficial questions
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2021 2:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – President Biden's first press conference on Thursday is getting bad reviews, though the blame is falling on the press corps rather than the president. Examples:

  • In the New Yorker, Susan B. Glasser writes that reporters generally asked the same questions over and over about the border and the filibuster, and we learned nothing new. That nobody asked a COVID question during a pandemic is "an epic and utterly avoidable press fail," she writes. "I am, of course, all for asking Biden hard, tough, and pointed questions—the more the better. But Thursday's press conference reminded me of why I hated these staged events in the first place. It taught me nothing about Joe Biden, his Presidency, or his priorities. The problem was not that it was boring. It was that it was bad."
  • Jon Allsop in the Columbia Journalism Review notes that the press corps complained for weeks about Biden's lack of a presser, but when it finally arrived, "the questions were a flop." In theory, more regular press conferences are a good thing, but "they're only as useful as the scrutiny reporters apply," he writes. "Next time, let’s focus less on the existence of the presser, and more on sharpening our questions. And, for heaven's sake, lose the questions about 2024. We've suffered enough."

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  • Dan Froomkin of Press Watch complains that the questions "reflected the insider, horse-racy obsessions of the political press corps" rather than what most Americans actually care about. We heard the same question about the filibuster over and over, for example, and even a few about the 2024 race, instead of, say, COVID, the vaccines, the economy, climate change, or infrastructure. Froomkin points out that Biden had to repeatedly "fact-check" the reporters' questions (he provides examples), a reversal of roles. In regard to the reporters, "as I've argued a million times before, they should all be replaced with people who care about governing, not politics—by people who care about what's real."
  • Another critical post comes via the blogger Zeynep, who echoes the above incredulity that nobody asked about COVID. The post consists of 10 questions reporters should have asked, including, "Given the data indicating that minority groups—who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic—are being undervaccinated, what are the plans to ensure vaccine equity?"
  • Journalism instructor Jay Rosen of New York University zeroes in on the problem. "Questions should be designed to elicit from the president responses that permit the public to inform itself," he writes. "But many of those who rise at these events ask questions designed so that the president's responses will make news. That difference is the source of a lot of frustration."
(Read more President Biden stories.)

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