The president has granted 408 media interviews with journalists in his first three years in office, exactly three times as many as his predecesor, according to a study cited by The New York Times. Towson University's Martha Kumar has tallied 136 one-on-ones for George W. Bush's first three years, and 166 for Bill Clinton's.
This stat confirms what we already knew: Obama is a press-friendly president, but perhaps not in the way that we thought. Obama's given far fewer general Q&As with the White House press corp (94) than Bush (307) or Clinton (493). The reason? “He prefers interviews because he prefers speaking on a particular topic," says Kumar. So this statistic is less about volume and more about message control.
Understandably, the president's cold shoulder hasn't pleased the White House press corp, which has slowly fallen out of love with him. The Hill even got one former White House correspondent to lament the loss of those pre-Twitter/Facebook/Google+ days when it was reporters who got out the president's message, not some new fangled social network: “I worry sometimes that the administration subverts the Wild West appeal of new media by rather scrupulously scrubbing and screening questions — like they have done in various new media town-hall settings."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.