Press & Presidents
(continued from page 1)...made a pretense of answering questions sent in to him. Hoover frequently refuses to see the press and totally disregards queries.
The correspondents now seldom bother to ask about anything important. They know by experience that if the subject is anything more weighty than a postmastership or some other petty local matter, Mr. Hoover will not answer their questions.
Under the rules set up by the White House all questions must be written out and submitted in advance. The purpose of this arrangement is to give the President time to study inquiries and to obtain any information he might need to answer them.
Mr. Hoover has used this convenience to inform himself as to what the press is interested in, so that he can talk about something else, or, as is most often the case, say nothing at all.
In the first weeks of his incumbency Mr. Hoover attempted to cover up his evasion by saying that he had nothing to talk about because no queries had reached him. This patent falsehood stirred such indignation among the correspondents, who had sent in numerous typewritten questions, that it reached his ears and he dropped the dodge. From then on he has made no attempt to cover up the fact that he will not answer questions dealing with anything of importance.
His press conferences are mere press handout periods. When he has something, the reporters are admitted, listen to him read his prepared statement, and then file out and wait around the outer lobby of the executive offices gossiping among themselves until the inefficient and slow mimeographing service of the White House sends up copies to them.
Another feature of the touted "liberalization" of the White House press relations was the institution of the twice-daily meetings between the reporters and a secretary. The purpose of this contact was to afford the correspondents a daily tie-up with the Executive, particularly on local matters.
Here again the reporters soon discovered that the system was being used chiefly to beguile and lull them.
They found that either deliberately or because he did not know and was trying to cover up the facts, the secretary repeatedly misled them on important details. As a result of this slick policy these daily conferences soon fell into disrepute.
The only feature of the Hoover press policy that has proved of any satisfaction to the reporters was the installation of an enlarged press room.
Reprinted from Washington Merry-Go-Round, 1931, Horace Liveright, Inc., New York.