Robert Gibbs resigns. Who should be the new Obama’s press secretary?

“The best service I can provide this president is, for the next couple of years, outside this building,” said Gibbs.

Questions:

1. How successful was Robert Gibbs in his position?

2. What kind of press secretary Obama needs in your opinion?

Answers:

Allan Louden, Professor of Communication, Wake Forest University

1. Given the record of modern era Press Secretaries, Gibbs tenure has been fairly successful. There are few thing a press secretary must do:

(1) Manage the flow of information (meaning access). There are, predictably, media complaints but nothing rising to the level of extended media attention. The media got “enough” to not raise hell.

(2) Be accessible to the press every day, but remain invisible in the political process. His job is to elevate and protect the boss, not become the story. From my perspective most coverage of Gibbs was perfunctory about doing the job, not about his inability to do the job. If you asked ten American’s who Gibbs is likely 8-9 would not know. That is pretty invisible.

(3) Say nothing. Some press secretaries make this a transparent art. Gibbs often sounded like he was offering information, even as the reporter knew he wasn’t. His main tactic–delay, information forthcoming, we’ll look into that . . .–allowed “promises of talk about” to come later. . .

(4) Have the confidence of the President. The press secretary needs access, needs to be trusted, needs to know everything that going on, a “witness” but not an “actor.” That seemed to be Gibbs power, he had trust and apparent constant access. If that was not the case the public did not know, which says to me he succeeded.

2. The second press secretary of most administration are not nearly as successful and become transitions to the 3rd press secretary.  Finding a press secretary that can meet #4 above is nearly impossible. After all Gibbs forged his relationship with Obama across a entire campaign before moving to 1600.  If the press has any sense the press secretary is separated from the president in any way–access, vision, even disposition–the go for the jugular.

Joseph Tuman, Professor of Political and Legal Communications, San Francisco State University

1. I think Bob Gibbs was very effective in his position–although he often operated at a disadvantage created by the huge enthusiasm and expectations fostered by the Obama victory in 2008. People expected a great deal out of the new President. But running for office is not the same thing as governing–and once the administration had a few setbacks or missteps (e.g., the BP oil disaster in the Gulf), the media scrutiny of the administration–and by extension, of Gibbs–was more intense than it might have been. If people have high hopes, they get more agitated once those hopes are not 100% realized. Of course, Obama is human–and as a new President, will occasionally make mistakes. Gibbs bore the brunt of that–but he did it very well.

2. The next person to serve as Press Secretary should have a news media background–and it always helps to have cultivated relationships with some of the press corps. Moreover, in this day and age, that individual better have a thorough understanding of new media and political bloggers/blogging.

Lindsay Hoffman, Assistant Professor, Center for Political Communication, University of Delaware

1. “Success” for a press secretary could mean a lot of things, but I think Gibbs was successful because he was able to be an effective filter through which President Obama’s message could be delivered. He was a strong advocate for the President, which the press secretary needs to be.

2. Gibbs was a close confidant of President Obama; he had been with him for several years before being appointed to press secretary. Obama will likely look for someone who has been a close adviser or friend who can be equally supportive of the President’s agenda.

David Perlmutter, Director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, The University of Iowa

1. Very–in hard times he kept up a sense of decorum and humor. He was good at the much larger part of the job that is not on public display, the on-on-one meetings with journalists. Journalists also felt he spoke “with authority,” that is with a direct line to the President.

2. Someone who is seen as a strong figure in their own right, who is a close ally of the president and speaks to him without filter. Someone with a sense of humor, and the willingness to keep plugging away, and not get negative or defensive.

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2 Responses

  1. What about Schwarzenegger for press secretary – would provide much needed color to the press conferences 🙂

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