An analysis by the New York Times suggests that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has preferred questions from journalists representing non-traditional and center-right news outlets over mainstream journalists in his daily press briefings.
Historically, administrations have prioritized questions from journalists sitting in the first two rows of the briefing room, normally assigned to reporters representing mainstream media such as NPR, Associated Press, Fox News and Reuters. Spicer has avoided this tradition and has focused his attention more on “non-mainstream” journalists elsewhere in the briefing room.
In his first Q&A session on the job, Spicer granted the first question to a New York Post journalist who had written a book critical of the Clintons. His second question came from the conservative website LifeZette, founded by radio personality Laura Ingraham (who was also considered by Trump for the press secretary position). None of his first five questions in his first briefing were asked from the front two rows of mainstream outlets. He regularly gives priority during briefings to journalists from conservative-leaning titles such as Breitbart, Newsmax and One America News Network.
In comparison, former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ first five questions in the initial 2009 Obama administration press briefing went to journalists representing mainstream outlets from the first two rows in the seating chart: Associated Press, CBS News, NBC News, ABC News and CNN.
Speaking with Sean Hannity in January, Spicer defended his decision:
“There are voices and issues that the mainstream media sometimes don’t capture, and it’s important for those issues to get as much prominence as some of the mainstream ones.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association – not the administration — has doled out seating assignments in the Press Room since 1981. Additional reporters with no seat assignment stand in the aisles of the room or sit in empty seats.