Hannah S. Chapman writes: This week, President Trump’s first solo news conference since taking the presidency was fodder for late-night television. But that’s just an extension of what we’ve seen since he took office. Under Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer, the near-daily White House news briefings have changed from routine interactions with a professional press corps to a high-profile media spectacle. The briefings frequently beat soap operas in daytime TV ratings and have been immortalized on “Saturday Night Live.” While that’s a shift away from normal U.S. politics, it resembles Russian President Vladimir Putin’s media strategy.
Under Putin, the Kremlin has built a media empire centered around the idea of information as entertainment. Access to the president is limited to circuslike news conferences attended primarily by regime supporters who ask the president softball questions. The most recent of these conferences, held in December, included questions about stray animals, chess and kvass, a traditional drink made from fermented bread. One reporter even asked Putin how it felt to be “the most influential person in the world.”
These news conferences offer the facade of genuine dialogue and the illusion of freedom of the press while giving the president the tools to control the political dialogue and distract the media from important issues.
What might the Russian example tell us about the White House’s communications strategy? [Continue reading…]