Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, October 18, 2018

It’s time for a press conference, Secretary Clinton

Hillary Clinton needs to hold a formal press conference to help fix her trust problem, writes Kris Schneider

It’s time for a press conference, Secretary Clinton

Hillary Clinton must hold a news conference, and fast. The Democratic nominee for President has not made herself available to the general press corps covering her since December of last year. For a person who hits Donald Trump hard for his nontraditional interactions with the press and has called him unfit for office, shutting out the press does not bode well for her. 

In an interview with Jake Tapper in May, Clinton identified her interviews numbering in the hundreds this year as a replacement for the more traditional route of holding press conferences. This is not acceptable—the American people deserve to have their questions answered in the most open and transparent ways possible. With distrust in the media itself reaching record high levels, the public needs to see as many journalists as possible asking what they perceive to be the “right” questions or the “hard questions”—questions that may not be asked in the more planned segment on a television news program.

Trump often holds formal and impromptu news conferences with the reporters assigned to cover the political and societal spectacle that is the Trump campaign. The press and American public usually benefit greatly from what the candidate says during these briefings. Trump has made some of his most inflammatory remarks during news conferences and, with the question and answer portions of these exercises, has been known to double down on claims and insults.

Clinton must expose herself to the potential for tough “gotcha” questions—a category often negotiated out of television appearances. The spontaneity of a news conference is not only what makes it relevant to what is happening right now, but it is also what gives the medium credibility.

Questions are not given to the candidate in advance, a reporter may develop questions on the fly and the candidate is truly put on the spot in terms of answering truthfully and quickly, making the conference one of the purest forms of question and answer we still have in American politics.

It is not fathomable why Clinton chooses to continue taking criticism on the issue—it has a relatively easy fix. She has shown herself to be quite capable of answering tough questions on the fly during the Democratic debates and the Trump campaign would be forced to find another talking point.

What is clear is that Hillary Clinton has a trust problem. A few months ago, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 69 percent of Americans are concerned with allegations of Clinton being dishonest. That number has barely moved, and the most significant movement came after the Democratic National Convention, when she took a commanding lead in the polls overall.

The press is not doing too hot with the American people, either. Just 6 percent of people in an April poll said they had “a lot” of confidence in the media. A live news conference carried by the major cable news channels could help both Clinton and the journalists who cover her by allowing Americans to see them at their best: open, transparent and doing their jobs, as promised.

Kris Schneider is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and is a columnist for The Eagle.

kschneider@theeagleonline.com


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