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Study Questions

  1. How effective were Republican leaders in setting the agenda for the press coverage of their issues? Select two press conference sessions. Identify the subjects of the leaders’ statements. How many of the reporters’ questions related to the leaders’ statements? Did the reporters focus on other issues instead? How did the leaders respond to questions that were “off message”? What does this suggest about the effectiveness of the leaders’ in conveying their message to the public?

  2. Broadly speaking, the Republican leaders’ press conferences dealt either with foreign policy or domestic issues, with occasional comments about politics and government operations. Compare the press conferences conducted on January 24, 1964, and February 28-29, 1968. How are the subjects similar or different? What does that tell you about how the country changed during those four years?

  3. The press conferences represented a two-way street. The Republican leaders tried to send a message to the American public about their alternatives to the president’s policies and those of his party’s legislators. But what are the reporters trying to get from the leaders? Is it more color—memorable quotes to use in their stories? Is it insight into behind-the-scenes maneuvering? Are they trying to clarify the dividing line between the Republican minority and the Democratic majority? Compile a list of all the questions asked during a single year to get a sense of reporters’ motives.

  4. Using the example of civil rights, compare the following press conferences to see if or how reporters’ questions differed: November 21, 1963, May 24, 1964, June 11, 1964, and March 18, 1965. Visit CongressLink for the legislative history of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to see how the press sessions related to action in the Senate.

  5. The press conferences and leadership meetings shed light on congressional-presidential relations. Visit the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library Site to read the president’s speeches during this period. What does he think of the Republican opposition?

  6. Two years represented in this sample were presidential election years, 1964 and 1968. How did the subjects of the leadership meetings and the press conferences change from those in non-election years? What does this suggest about the impact of elections on congressional-presidential relations, on the role of the minority party, and on interests of the media in their reporting?

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