Monday, February 06, 2017

'Skype seat' allows remote reporters to ask questions during daily White House press briefing

Four remote reporters attended Wednesday's
White House press briefing (AP photo)
Last Wednesday four remote journalists and talk show hosts participated via Skype during a White House press briefing by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. "Spicer’s virtual addition to the daily press briefing, also known as the 'Skype Seat,' allows for additional reporters from around the country, who are not able to attend the briefings in person, to ask Spicer a question or two remotely," John Bat reports for CBS News. "Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said reporters and viewers can expect Spicer to host about four Skype questions twice a week." She told reporters, “You get opinions people might not ask from just in Washington.”

Cody Derespina of Fox News reports, "The White House hasn’t released a detailed description of how the panelists are chosen, except that anyone applying must live at least 50 miles from Washington, D.C. The panelists were shown on a pair of televisions located behind and on either side of Spicer and were only on screen while asking a question. Otherwise the TV screen showed a White House logo."

The first four panelists selected were: Kimberly Kalunian of WPRI Rhode Island; Natalie Herbick from FOX8 in Cleveland; Portland, Ore.-based conservative radio talk show host Lars Larson; and stoutly conservative Jeff Jobe, who has run for office as a Republican and publishes six weekly newspapers in Southern Kentucky. He said Trump acting on campaign promises "gives hope to my state and particularly the region in which I grew up, Appalachia. . . . So my question is, how soon or when will the rules restricting coal mining, coal burning and coal exports be reversed?" Spicer said, "Once we have the secretary of energy confirmed ... we can continue to take steps to move forward with."

Asked if he thought the Skype journalists threw Spicer "softball" questions, CBS reporter Major Garrett told Bat it didn't matter: “I don’t have a problem with it at all. … I cannot complain about more reporters asking questions. If the Skype questions are softballs, everyone will see it. And if a White House gains a reputation for taking softball questions and avoiding tough questions, that will become obvious to the country.”

Other reporters say they "fear the Trump administration is using the initiative to dilute critical questions from veteran journalists with softballs from supportive outsiders," Dylan Byers reports for CNN Money. Jobe, the only rural participant, told Byers he is a Trump supporter, but "stressed that his only intention is to serve his readers," Byers writes.

Larson asked a more opinionated question than Jobe: "The federal government is the biggest landlord in America. It owns two-thirds of a billion acres of America. I don’t think the Founders ever envisioned it that way. Does President Trump want to start returning the people's land to the people? And in the meantime, for a second question—since that's in fashion these days—can he tell the Forest Service to start logging our forests aggressively again to provide jobs for Americans, wealth for the Treasury, and not spend $3.5 billion a year fighting forest fires?"

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