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Presidents Shying Away From Press

In the era of instant access to updates from the White House via the Web and cable news shows continuously regurgitating the latest presidential sound bites, it would follow that presidents would cater to increased media demand by giving a greater number of news conferences than ever before.

Looking at data for presidential news conferences from Coolidge to Clinton, however, the reverse appears to be true. While the 1920s and 30s regularly saw presidents giving upwards of 80 news conferences a year, Reagan gave only 42 in his two terms combined, and from Truman onwards the yearly average rarely jumps above 30.

Naturally, some of the obvious low numbers can be explained. Nixon had a record-setting two news conferences in 1974, the year of his resignation. But looking at the graph below of total news conferences by term, the downward trend is unavoidable. And though more may be known about the daily activities of our commander-in-chief than ever before, today presidents seem to be less inclined to face the press themselves.