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Home / World / The UK is turning to the White House for inspiration at press briefings

The UK is turning to the White House for inspiration at press briefings



On Wednesday, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom created a new job listing: a spokesman for a new daily briefing from the television press, as well as a spokesman for the White House. The briefings, which are expected to begin in October, are a major change to traditional off-road cameras, which are used twice a day by London journalists.

“You will represent the government and the prime minister every month to a million-strong audience on major broadcast and social media channels, and you will have the chance to influence and shape public opinion,” the statement said.

Johnson wants to continue this.

“We think people want direct involvement and want things from us, and that̵

7;s why we’re going for it,” Johnson told LBC radio in early July. “I’ll pop up from time to time, I have no doubt.”

Briefing or execution?

But in Washington, D.C., where daily briefings have been broadcast since 1995, there is a warning on both sides of the rostrum: turning on the cameras will make Downing Street more like the scene at Shakespeare’s Globe, the famous Elizabethan theater just down the Thames. .

And for someone it’s bad.

Mike McCurry, a spokesman for the Clinton White House, who brought the briefings to television in 1995, expresses his regret that the networks allow daily briefings to be broadcast in real time, telling CNN Business that they have become a “real television event.” .

He now believes that the briefing should be embargoed until it is completed.

“It requires journalists to record briefings, check information from other sources, possibly extract comments from others, and then prepare reports that use what’s really news,” McCurry said.

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This is unlikely to happen in today’s world. Joe Lockhart, who served as White House spokesman after McCurry, told CNN Business that he expected both sides in London to treat the exercise as a theater.

“Downing Street is likely to bring in a TV presenter (for the role of spokesperson), and I think journalists are human in nature. Many of them will see it as a way to get on TV, to get attention,” Lockhart said. “It will not be a briefing, but a performance.”

Speakers Karen Bohan, editor of USA Today and former president of the White House Correspondents Association, Karen Bohan, said that the briefings on CNN Business were giving briefings to Downing Street, which would change the relationship between the press and the government. But she said it was “overdue.”

“Most government officials are more likely to be guarded on camera than they are to talk to reporters without cameras. You are more likely to get ‘talk points’ and fewer candid answers,” Bohan said. “However, the more available, the better for the press and the public.”

In London, a group of reporters covering Downing Street is known as the Lobby, and they attend two daily briefings with representatives of the Prime Minister. Briefings are not in-house, and spokespersons are always identified only as “government spokesmen.” Even audio recording is not allowed.

And while many journalists in London are open to television briefings, some are wary of their colleagues – some of whom are already “raising peacocks,” as one British newspaper’s political correspondent put it – stealing from theaters and reinforcing them by trying to talk to government officials. officials on national television.

Former ITV presenter Alastair Stewart wrote in a column for The Spectator that this way at least the public will be able to see and hear the questioner and the respondent in full.

“There is more merit in the free and frank exchange between the press and politics, in the full reflection of television light, than in the continuation of the semi-secret pantomime of the lobby,” he wrote.

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Others worry that turning on the cameras will actually reduce transparency. So far, there have been few details on the exact format of the briefings and who will be allowed to participate.

In a joint statement to the guards of the media The Press Gazette, Pippa Crerar The Daily Mirror, chairman of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, and lobby chairman Jason Groves said they did not want to see new briefings, “used as an excuse to reduce transparency, such as reducing daily briefings, restricting questions to those who may ask, or our permanent access to ministers. “

Advice

Reporters should be prepared for canned food made for television sound beats by a government spokesman, Washington veteran’s reporters warned.

Ben Feller, a former White House chief associate with the Associated Press and now a partner in communications firm Mercury, said most CNN Business journalists considered daily briefings with a spokesman useless to gather new information.

But journalists still need to “prepare properly, get to work, not accept requests for answers, follow up and act as usual.”

As for the elected representative of the press service, they are likely to become the second most recognizable person in the British government, the first – the Prime Minister.

According to several reports, Downing Street specifically seeks to attract someone with experience in journalism on the air to perform the role. But Lockhart warned Downing Street not to “hire a familiar face that could fake their way.”

According to him, the best person in this position marries “representation, politics and politics together,” Lockhart said.

McCurry also advised that the spokesman stay out of political discussions and be a “fly on the wall.”

“Taking an active role in decision-making causes some reluctance to those who are ‘on the other side’ to share information with you, and you always want to get the ‘best move,'” he said.

Feller also warned that one of the first issues a press secretary may face is determining their purpose.

“Is it their role to advance the government’s agenda and not respond to anything else, or is their goal – both – to promote the agenda and responsibility and sensitivity to the press?” said Feller. “Whoever they hire should be prepared to answer that question.”


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