Media Innovations In White House Reporting

From the invention of the telegraph to live press conferences to presidential tweets, this timeline tracks media advances that have led to increasingly accessible and direct political coverage for the American public.

Since its inception, the press has had an important relationship with the American government. Starting with newspaper reporting, the media has helped citizens engage with congressional representatives, understand how laws impact their rights, and hold executive leadership accountable at home and abroad.

Today, the proliferation of fake news, scandals, hacks and leaks has made reliable, transparent political media coverage even more important. Digital disruption in the business world has impacted the political world too. A new “interconnected estate” has emerged , where the internet empowers people, including the president, to have a voice outside of traditional press coverage.

In many ways, President Trump’s use of social media is a culmination of the evolving use of technology at the White House and highlights the ongoing need for trustworthy coverage of the president’s office for the American people. The progression of media innovations at the White House outlined below reveals a legacy of increasingly direct, real-time political coverage as America advances in the digital age.

1800s

The inventions of mass print production and the telegraph in the 19th century provided accessible political coverage for Americans across social classes regardless of how far one lived from the capital. Simultaneously, the nation gradually shifted its attention from Congress to the office of the president to set the national political agenda.

March 1845

The inventor of the telegraph, Samuel F.B. Morse, reports the inauguration of President James K. Polk via telegraph.

1846

John Plumbe Jr. takes the earliest known photograph of the White House.

March 1857

The inauguration of President James Buchanan is the first to be photographed.

1866

President Andrew Johnson installs the White House’s first telegraph office.

May 1877

President Rutherford B. Hayes has the first telephone installed in the White House telegraph room.

1890s

Newspaper reporters begin to stand outside the White House seeking interviews with the residents, politicians, staff and visitors. During this time, a group of reporters gains their own table to work inside the White House.

March 1897

President William McKinley’s first inauguration is the first to be recorded on film along with sound via a gramophone record.

1900s

With the advent of radio, Americans could tune in to major political events as they unfolded. In 1924 when Calvin Coolidge delivered a campaign speech, he had a live audience of 20 million listeners across the country. Television, cable TV and the internet each brought the American public increased access to White House coverage as the century progressed, particularly with the first live press conference and the creation of the White House website.

1902

The West Wing is completed and includes a dedicated workspace for members of the press during the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt.

March 1913

President Woodrow Wilson holds the first presidential press conference.

February 1914

Reporters create the White House Correspondents' Association
(WHCA)
to keep Wilson from ending his press conferences.

February 1922

President Warren Harding installs the first radio set in the White House.

June 1922

Harding becomes the first president to be heard on the radio.

December 1923

President Calvin Coolidge broadcasts his State of the Union address via radio in six cities: Washington; New York; St. Louis; Kansas City, Mo.; Dallas; and Providence, R.I.

March 1925

Coolidge's inauguration is the first broadcast by radio. Read a transcript of the inauguration recording here.

Trouble hearing audio? click here.

March 1929

President Herbert Hoover's inauguration is the first recorded by sound newsreels.

1933‐1944

President Franklin D. Roosevelt gives 30 informal evening radio addresses, known as “fireside chats,” which allow him to speak directly to the American public. Read a transcript of the first fireside chat here.

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1934

The Press Room of the White House is rebuilt and expanded to include desks, typewriters and direct telephone connections.

April 1939

After having broadcasting equipment installed in the White House, Roosevelt becomes the first president to appear on television. The broadcast is part of the opening of the World’s Fair in New York, though only a handful of TV sets receive the transmission.

January 1955

Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes the first president to broadcast a news conference. It was not live but was recorded on newsreel and radio. Prior tradition held that press conferences were generally off the record, allowing the president the flexibility to alter statements if and when necessary.

January 1961

John F. Kennedy holds the first live presidential press conference , beginning his practice of holding regular live press conferences, about twice each month.

1969

The room now known as the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room is completed to accommodate press briefings for the White House press pool under the Nixon Administration.

1980

Robert C. Pierpoint of CBS News becomes the first president of the WHCA not from a newspaper or wire service.

October 1998

Bill Clinton becomes the first president to use email , exchanging messages with astronaut John Glenn, who was some 250 miles above Earth at the time aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

2000s

Despite the many new ways—web forums, live videos, Twitter announcements—the president’s office has found to communicate directly with the American people, the Fourth Estate remains invaluable as the people’s White House watchdog.

July 2007

The Briefing Room is renovated to include multimedia displays and teleconferencing capabilities.

January 2008

President George W. Bush holds an “Ask the White House” forum on the White House’s website.

January 2009

President Barack Obama begins delivering weekly addresses that are posted to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, the White House website and elsewhere online, allowing Americans direct and regular access to the presidency.

October 2009

Online-only organizations Politico, The Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo and Salon join the White House press pool for the first time.

October 2010

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs goes to Twitter for the first question of a White House press briefing.

July 2011

The White House hosts a “Twitter Town Hall” via #AskObama.

May 2015

The President joins Twitter with the username @POTUS .

tweet by POTUS44:Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.

July 2015

The White House removes its ban on photography by tourists , which was in place for more than 40 years. The move allows for social media posts from inside the White House by the general public.

January 2016

The White House joins Snapchat.

May 2016

Buzzfeed conducts the first interview with the president on Facebook Live , though the feed dropped out less than two minutes into the live stream.

January 2017

President Trump inherits President Obama’s @POTUS account but announces that he intends to continue using his personal Twitter handle , @realDonaldTrump . The White House partners with the National Archives and Records Administration to ensure all tweets from the official @POTUS, first lady, vice president and other administration accounts are archived in the transition.

tweet by realDonaldTrump:Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don't always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.
tweet by realDonaldTrump:Everybody is arguing whether or not it is a BAN. Call it what you want, it is about keeping bad people (with bad intentions) out of country!
tweet by realDonaldTrump:The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo.

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