Peer Presser

What's the point of all these presidential press conferences?

If you tune in to MSNBC today, you might see a black-and-white ticker occasionally pop up in the corner of your screen, counting down to tonight’s primetime PRESIDENTIAL NEWS CONFERENCE. (Get excited, America: it’s now only seven hours, eleven minutes, and thirty-seven seconds away!)

The Obama administration has continued the practice of holding live, televised conferences: Robert Gibbs meets the press most weekday afternoons, and tonight’s affair (now only seven hours, ten minutes, and forty-two seconds away!) will mark Obama’s second primetime presser.

It’s a given that these conferences are, at their core, political theater, as much about spectacle as the exchange of information and perspectives. But: what value, if any—political or cultural—do they have? Would citizens be better served if they weren’t televised? And given their current, live-TV format…how might press conferences be improved?

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.