In his first few dozen press briefings, Sean Spicer has proven himself a non-traditional press secretary. From taking questions from smaller news outlets to holding off-camera briefings, Spicer is taking his role of press secretary in a new direction.
Spicer, former communications director of the Republican National Committee, made his debut as press secretary the day after President Trump’s inauguration. Since Spicer stepped into his new position, White House communication has changed in three significant ways:
- Press briefings are significantly shorter compared to past press secretaries’: In his most recent briefings, Spicer has cut down question time to roughly 20 minutes, compared to the 70 minutes he allowed during his first briefings. A recent analysis conducted by Media Matters showed that Spicer’s briefings have been 42% shorter than Josh Earnest’s of the Obama administration. Traditionally, the length of each press briefing is determined by the press; past press secretaries have continued answering questions for as long as the press had questions to ask. Spicer, on the other hand, has forged a new path by fielding questions for as long as he feels fit and then drawing the briefing to a close.
- Cable news networks are now covering press briefings live: After a string of controversies surrounding Spicer and the daily press briefings, major news networks like CNN and Fox News began covering the briefings live. Media Matters reports that over 90% of Spicer’s briefings have been aired live by Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC compared to the 2% of Earnest’s. Press briefings are being covered more than ever before, and Spicer’s stray from tradition seems a likely cause. Whether intentional or unintentional, Spicer has found a way to bring press briefings to a national audience unlike his predecessors.
- More variation in interactions: Typically, press briefings are dominated by mainstream news networks as press secretaries tend to allow the most questions from their reporters. During his briefings, Spicer has strayed from only answering questions from the mainstream media and frequently takes questions from smaller news networks like Christian Broadcasting Network and One America News. In doing so, Spicer has opened press briefings up to a variety of networks that had previously gone unnoticed in the briefing room.
While it is still early in the Trump administration and in Spicer’s tenure, it appears that traditional press briefings are a thing of the past. But will Spicer’s style become the new norm, or will old traditions make a comeback in the future?