Trump Admin Promised to Shake up WH Media Traditions. One Month In, Spicer Delivers.

| FEB 27, 2017 | 11:02 AM

It's been a little over one month since White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer started leading the longstanding ritual known as the White House press briefing.

In the months leading up to President Donald Trump's move into the Oval Office, both Trump and his staff hinted that the treatment of the press would no longer be business as usual.

“I think that many things have to change, and I think that it’s important that we look at all of those traditions that are great, but quite frankly, as you know, don’t really make news,” then-incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told radio host Hugh Hewitt back in December. He added that the incoming administration was also “looking at things like the daily White House briefing from the press secretary."

When President Trump took office one month later, the world was introduced to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in the form of a White House Briefing Room statement regarding the president's inauguration. Misleading information over crowd size, which numbers outlets were unable to confirm, and Spicer's overall vibe led to countless memes and even a Saturday Night Live skit.

Still, in the first official briefing of Trump's presidency, Spicer tried to lay it all out:

“I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts. There are certain things that we may ... we may not fully understand when we come out, but our intention is never to lie to you.”

In his first month, Spicer has led press briefings by digging in to talking points, sparring with reporters on challenging follow-ups, and shifting the way business is done inside the briefing room — whether the media likes it or not.

Who gets called on?

According to an analysis by Independent Journal Review, in the first month of the Trump administration, Spicer chose to call on Fox News and affiliate national networks (Fox Business Network, Fox News Radio) more than any other outlet.

Independent Journal Review

The top ten outlets called on include Newsmax and OAN, two right-leaning publications, and American Urban Radio Network, helmed by White House veteran April Ryan, who recently got into a beef with White House communications staffer Omarosa Manigault.

In addition, the Washington Post was called on as frequently as the Washington Times, and the New York Times was called on so infrequently that it didn't even make the list above.

In past administrations, as the Times noted, press secretaries tended to prioritize the first two rows, usually filled by mainstream networks, national papers, and news wires. However, several of the outlets Spicer called on don't even have an assigned seat.

How are Trump's “fake news” outlets being treated?

The president has said that the following outlets constitute as “fake news.”

In the first month of press briefings, they were called on at least 60 times by Sean Spicer.

How are Murdoch-owned outlets being treated? 

In total, News Corp outlets, owned by the Murdoch family constituted at least 44 questions. The outlets owned by the Murdoch family include Fox News Channel and other Fox network outlets, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

What are reporters asking?

In the first month of press briefings, the press focused heavily on issues related to immigration, Russia, and the Supreme Court.

Independent Journal Review

The news cycle was, unsurprisingly, dominated by the implementation of President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration, the resignation of Michael Flynn from the administration following his discussions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., as well as the selection of Neil Gorsuch to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

It should be noted that categories like Trade included TPP and NAFTA, and terrorism and immigration questions, as well as, LGBT and religious freedom questions tended to overlap.

How long are the briefings?

According to an analysis of Sean Spicer's first month of White House press briefings, on average, Spicer's briefings lasted 43 minutes. While these briefings are shorter than those held by Obama administration press secretaries, they tended to be longer than those held by George W. Bush administration officials.

Just after one month in ...

In the three days following the one month mark of Spicer's first briefing, Washington media was dealt some major blows. First, an informal gaggle (pool reporters as well as a select list of others) with Spicer was held at the White House, and several members of the press were not allowed in. While several conservative outlets were let in, others, including the New York Times and Buzzfeed, were “banned” from attending. It replaced the White House press briefing for the day.

Second, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, both President Trump and White House adviser Steve Bannon reiterated “opposition party” critiques of the media.

Third, President Trump said he would not be attending the White House Correspondents Dinner, a move no president has done in 36 years.

On the methodology

Members of the press often ask more than one question when called on during the briefing, and frequently, they exchange follow-ups and clarifications with the press secretary. In addition, the questions asked can have multifaceted issues (ex. the “travel ban” being both a terrorism and immigration issue). In these cases, IJR tried to group questions into general categories and follow-up questions on the same subject from the same reporter were not counted twice.

Finally, of the more than 350 times Sean Spicer called upon reporters in the briefings, we failed to identify 23, which accounted for about 7 percent of all reporters called on. These questions frequently came from reporters who did not have assigned seating, were not official members of the White House Press Corps, were not visible on camera, or were foreign press rotating in for the day.