White House press room revamp draws questions about media

WASHINGTON: The White House's announcement on August 2 that it will be doing some much-needed renovations to the James S. Brady Press Room has left some wondering if the multimedia overhaul will be a way to compete with the press on what the public gets to see.

WASHINGTON: The White House's announcement on August 2 that it will be doing some much-needed renovations to the James S. Brady Press Room has left some wondering if the multimedia overhaul will be a way to compete with the press on what the public gets to see.

The room, which was named after Reagan's former White House press secretary and is built over JFK's swimming pool, will be refurbished to bring it into the modern technological era, which will include a video wall behind the podium.

But media research analysts and at least one communication professional believe that this is an attempt by the White House to wrestle control of the news away from the media. The proposed video wall will likely allow the Administration more management of the flow of the press conferences than the traditional format. The White House did not return a request for comment, but press sectary Tony Snow has dismissed such allegations to reporters.

"I think the daily White House press conferences have become such a mainstay of CNN, Fox, and the internet, that the Administration can use that to get their message out to the American people," said Nick Kalm, a partner at Reputation Partners. "I think this White House is frustrated about getting their message out to the American people because so much of it gets filtered through the media perspective, and this will allow them to bypass that to some degree."

"There is a skirmish between the president and journalists over who controls the news agenda," S. Robert Lichter, president of the independent research institute Center for Media and Public Affairs, told William Douglas of the McClatchy Newspapers. "These new toys will aid the administration in setting the agenda by giving them more time, more video evidence, and a larger profile."

Other plans for the room include ripping out old, blue carpet and seats, as well as installing new electrical equipment.

 "I think this will [have] more impact on the TV news, rather than the print, but this will allow for more interesting photo-ops," added Kalm. "For years the White House has been trying to have more impact as far as their press conferences and this is just taking it to the next step."

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