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- 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?
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?