White House 'Gaggle' Media Briefings Return

A slight shift for President Barack Obama's press office in recent days.

The daily morning gaggle, a White House staple through administration after administration, but absent in the current White House, has returned.

The gaggle (it's one of those terms that has been in existence since well before I got there in 2001) is an informal, first thing in the morning, on the record session in the Press Secretary's office that generally takes place prior to any public presidential events AND, a reporter's day is overtaken by deadlines.

One other key to the gaggle. NO CAMERAS. So questions can be asked and answered in a more informal setting. It proved a pretty good way to get an early take on what the administration was up to that day. The regular televised briefing would take place hours later.

But the gaggle changed significantly during the George W. Bush years.

After 9-11 it became far to crowded for the press secretary's office to hold all the reporters who showed up. So it was moved to the regular briefing room and that's where it stayed. Then, during the final months of the Bush administration, attendance was so light it was phased out altogether.

Current Press Secretary Robert Gibbs did not reinstate it when the new President moved into the White House. His feeling was that one session a day with reporters was enough, so the afternoon televised briefing became the focus, even though its lateness in the day (sometimes as late as 3pm) was a source of some frustration for correspondents with early deadlines.

Now the gaggle is back, with no real explanation except to that the White House was looking for a way to share information with reporters earlier in the day.

The first one was on Friday morning, a day when most of the questions dealt with the President's reaction to the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Health care was big as well. No surprises on either front.

Gibbs seemed to like the setting and the format. About 20 reporters attended.

He promised to do more. There was another one today. And perhaps tomorrow.

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