Room for the Press in the White House

President Barack Obama devoted space in his final remarks to the nation in support of press access at the White House.

Space in the president’s speech is valuable, but not nearly as valuable as the physical space in the White House that the press corps uses to do its job.

Obama takes questions from the press

“You're not supposed to be sycophants, you're supposed to be skeptics, you're supposed to ask me tough questions,” Obama told the reporters packed into the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House. “And having you in this building has made this place work better.” 

Having the press working within yards of the Oval Office keeps officials honest and makes them work harder, Obama said. “You have made us think about how we are doing what we do and whether or not we're able to deliver on what's been requested by our constituents,” he said.

Obama’s remarks come in the wake of reports that President-elect Donald Trump is considering moving the press out of its traditional space in the West Wing. Sean Spicer, the incoming press secretary for Trump, has suggested a move to bigger accommodations in another building.

“There's a massive demand to cover this president,” Spicer told reporters on Jan 18, confirming that transition officials had looked at spaces to accommodate more members of the media.

For now, Trump has directed that at least the first press briefing on Jan. 23 be held in the White House briefing room, Spicer said.

“And so we'll look at it going forward, whether or not it makes sense to, you know, go to a room that can accommodate more people,” Spicer said.

A day earlier, Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that it was more than just symbolism to have the White House press corps located in the White House.

The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

“But even taking that argument at face value, there is something symbolically important about all of you gathering here every single day to hold people in power accountable, to demand answers, to demand transparency, to demand facts,” Earnest said.

“And your ability to do that is going to be affected if you don't have regular access to the White House, if you're not able to do your job from the White House,” Earnest said.