President Obama is 'Open for Questions' Online

Last week, Obama worked on his NCAA tournament brackets while the ESPN cameras rolled. While on the West Coast, he visited to the set of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" to push his economic plans. After a sit-down interview in the Oval Office, the president gave a tour of the White House grounds, including the new swing set, to the television program "60 Minutes." He has conducted several sessions with reporters from smaller, regional newspapers.

Many Get In, Only 13 Got Called On

The Obama administration has found ways to take a White House news conference, perhaps the most inside-the-Beltway gathering, and fit it to its liking.

When Obama took questions at Tuesday night's news conference in the East Room, he could have turned to a reporter from the sizeable contingent of foreign news agencies or to one of a handful of bloggers who were not relegated to the back or sides of the room.

Gaining access to the East Room were reporters from black media outlets like BET, Essence magazine and Black Enterprise. A reporter from CNN Turkey scored a seat, perhaps because Obama will visit Turkey at the end of his trip to Europe early next month.

Also jammed into the East Room was a radio reporter from the National Rifle Association news outlet; reporters from The Washington Blade, a weekly publication targeting Washington's gay and lesbian community; and The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian newsmagazine. Even two student reporters from local universities were allowed in.

Sarah Mimms, a news editor and reporter for The Hoya, Georgetown University's student newspaper, said she was surprised when her application for a news conference credential was granted by the White House press office.

Neither Mimms nor her counterpart from Howard University's campus paper, The Hilltop, got a chance to ask their question however.

More than 160 reporters were granted a credential for Tuesday night's Q&A session but Obama called on 13 members of the media.

Two of the lucky 13 came from outlets that have not been part of the regular rotation at briefings by the press secretary -- Univision and Ebony magazine. Both reporters asked questions that were of interest to their particular audiences -- efforts to stem violence on the U.S. border with Mexico from the Univision reporter and a question about the increase in the number of homeless children from the Ebony writer.

The president also signaled he was willing to engage in follow-up questions, a definite no-no during the Bush years.

Who Gets Called On

The traditional format is to have the reporters from The Associated Press and Reuters wire services front and center because the president will turn to them in the beginning. Then it is on to the television network correspondents and reporters from the major national newspapers.

In his first news conference last month, Obama ruffled some feathers by not calling on some reporters from traditional news organizations, including The Chicago Tribune, his former hometown paper, as well as The Wall Street Journal and Time and Newsweek magazines.

Obama instead called on a reporter from the liberal-leaning Huffington Post Web site, marking the first time a president called on a reporter from a Web-only publication.

On Tuesday night, Obama did not turn to reporters from any of the major national newspapers -- no New York Times or Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal was shut out again.

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