White House change of style: Jay Carney takes podium as new press secretary
Former journalist Jay Carney, Obama’s new press secretary, briefed White House reporters for the first time, hinting at a style that was less combative and more inclusive than his predecessor's.
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The questions the Yale University educated Carney faced Wednesday focused on the reaction to the fiscal year 2012 budget that Obama unveiled Monday, upheaval in the Middle East as a result of the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and White House relations with the press.Skip to next paragraph
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It is risky to draw too many conclusions from one briefing. But in his initial outing, Carney seemed less combative in responding to reporters’ questions than his predecessor, often deflecting sharp questions with a calm restatement of the Obama administration’s position.
And Carney appeared to be making a conscious effort to take questions from a wider selection of reporters. During some of Mr. Gibbs’ briefings, there was an extraordinary emphasis on the reporters sitting in the first row where wire service and TV reporters are located.
At one point he said, “let me move on here” as he finished taking questions from the second row. Later, moving deeper into the room for questions he said, “I want to get you and then experiment a little.” The assigned seats in the briefing room follow a pecking order that is as clearly demarcated as that in any high school cafeteria. Yet by the end of the briefing, Carney had taken questions from reporters in six of the seven rows.
Avoided being pinned down
While including more reporters in the briefing process, Carney avoided being pinned down on a variety of press access issues, in response to questions posed by long-time ABC News correspondent Ann Compton.
How often would the president hold press conferences? “I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule,” Carney said.
Will meetings between the president and his cabinet be open for coverage? “There are no hard and fast rules,” the new press secretary said.
As to how often he will hold briefings, Carney replied he would do so frequently. “I just want it to evolve. I don’t have a new plan to lay on the table. I want to see how it works.”
In response to a question, Careny said Obama “wished me well” before the briefing. As the session ended, CBS Radio correspondent Mark Knoller asked Carney whether the experience was as bad as he feared. Back in dry wit mode, the press secretary responded, “better than I ever could have imagined."
IN PICTURES: Inside President Obama's White House