Mike McCurry: “White House press briefings should not be a reality TV show.”

From a column by former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry in the Washington Examiner:

All went well until 1998. Then we had a sex scandal at the White House, and everyone wanted the details on the president and a young intern. Media organizations wanted to carry my briefings “live” every day. I remember calling the head of CNN at the time and complaining that they were promoting my upcoming daily briefing. “There is nothing new I will say today; I guarantee that.” But Tom Johnson, then the president of CNN, responded that I spiked their audience numbers every afternoon. I was apparently more entertaining than afternoon soap operas.

At this point, the daily televised briefing has devolved into spectacle, with both sides seemingly performing for the cameras and talking past each other to the viewers at home.

There is a moral to this story. The White House daily press briefing should not be a reality TV show. It is a “briefing.” Reporters should take in the information offered by the White House and then check it out. The public has a right to know, and the government has an obligation to tell. Those are fundamental principles.

But that can happen without the white hot lights of live television. I applaud the decisions of media organizations that now refrain from carrying White House briefings live. They need to get information, test it against other sources and experts, and present complete reports to a public that is hungry for accurate and truthful reporting. That should be a guiding goal for the next presidential administration.

Mike McCurry was White House press secretary from 1994 to 1998 under President Bill Clinton.

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