‘You forgot half the room!’: WH reporters growing more frustrated over who gets to ask questions

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The White House press pool is getting increasingly frustrated over Karine Jean-Pierre and Jen Psaki’s choice of who gets to ask what questions during daily briefings and the grumbling is getting louder by the day.

“You forgot half the room,” one reporter shouted at Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre from the back of the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House this past week, according to The Hill.

That incident was caught on video and was also included in a written transcript of the briefing. But it’s just one example of the palpable and audible frustration from reporters who compete to ask questions during daily sessions. There seems to be little rhyme or reason on who gets called to ask a question. One thing is for certain, if you are a small news outlet banished to the back of the pack, you are unlikely to get a chance to ask anything at all.

“You should take questions from this side of the room,” one reporter yelled at Jean-Pierre as she ended Monday’s press briefing.

“Yeah, there’s like five more rows here,” another reporter added.

“Tomorrow, guys. Tomorrow. Tomorrow,” she replied. “I’ll get the … back tomorrow.”

Following Tuesday’s briefing, another journalist shouted at Jean-Pierre, “You forgot the back!”

“I called on the — I called on the back,” she stated. “We had [U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo] take … questions from the back, guys.” Raimondo actually took questions from just one reporter who was seated behind the first several rows earlier during the briefing, not in the back as asserted by Jean-Pierre, The Hill noted.

The upset over being able to get questions asked and answered has been growing. The whining over whose voice gets heard is now getting loud enough to be noticed by Americans in general.

Reporters are assigned seats in the briefing room. The bigger news outlets typically are the ones who get the choice front rows for asking questions. That would include NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News, The Associated Press, and CNN. The back is relegated to those not assigned seats, smaller media outlets, regional news outfits, and foreign reporters.

The second row is comprised of other large outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, CBS News Radio, NPR, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Seat assignments are determined by a committee of four members of the White House Correspondents’ Association board that looks at an outlet’s reach and its average daily, weekly, and monthly audience when assigning each seat.

Many of the complaints appear to be coming from smaller news outlets.

But some of the complaints involve not getting actual answers at all to reporters’ questions.

Friday, Psaki pointedly called on a number of reporters who were not upfront.

“I just want to skip around because I know we’re not getting to enough people in the back, so I hear,” Psaki declared before calling on reporters from Time and the Daily Mail.

(Video Credit: The Hill)

“Those of us who don’t get to ask questions every day are frustrated that they’re squeezing in seven questions with dubious news value,” claimed one White House reporter who attends the briefings, according to The Hill. “They have been asking maybe five or seven different questions hitting every major news story so they get their clip of their correspondent asking about all of the major news of the day.”

“Often the people who don’t get called on are rightly annoyed,” Michael Shear, a reporter with The New York Times, said according to The Hill. “In an ideal world, everybody would get to ask all of their questions. … Sometimes they [press officials] do a better job of spreading the opportunities more broadly around the room, and sometimes they don’t.”

“You could feel the frustration in the back of the room,” he remarked concerning the briefings this week. “We who represent the bigger networks and the news organizations, I think we have to be more respectful of our other colleagues.”

Shear says it is the responsibility of all of the reporters to ensure that a select few don’t hijack a given briefing.

“This is all really self-policing,” he commented. “The White House Correspondents’ Association is not the kind of organization that’s going to mandate that reporters only get one question. … It sort of relies on everybody’s good graces to do the right thing.”


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