Presidential News Conferences

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The term "news conference" refers simply to an interaction between the President and multiple members of the press in a relatively formal setting.  In a "news conference," the President and the press meet specifically for the President to respond to press questions. In the early twentieth century, those interactions were only partly "on the record," as specified by the President, and were not broadcast live.  Indeed in several early instances (e.g., Coolidge, Hoover), reporters submitted questions in writing, and the President selected which to answer.

The modern idea of a press conference dates from the Eisenhower Administration.  In those modern conferences, the President responds to nominally un-vetted questions in a public forum, and the event is nationally broadcast. Of course, the President may know that a particular reporter is interested in a specific topic, or that a reporter is regarded as "friendly."

A different kind of interaction is called an "exchange with reporters."  An exchange with reporters typically happens incidentally alongside some other meeting or event.  These are often while the President is moving from one location to another and pauses to take questions from reporters (e.g. walking to the helicopter).  Alternatively, the President may decide at the end of remarks to respond to questions from reporters.  Early in the Trump Administration, the White House did not prepare transcripts of many of President Trump's "exchanges." 

In the table below, "Solo-Reg" refers to a conference with the President, alone. A variant of the Solo category, but tallied separately below is "Prime-Time."  Those conferences have been televised, live, in prime-time (Eastern Time). The total number of "solo" conferences is the sum of "Solo-Reg" and "Prime-Time."  Prime-time conferences begin with the Nixon Administration, but are irregular starting with George H.W. Bush. Since Obama's first year in office (2009), there have been no prime-time televised news conferences.

In a Joint conference, the President appears together with one or more other speakers.  A typical example of a Joint conference involves a foreign head of government with whom the President has been meeting.

On our Advanced Search page, you can find the transcripts of all news conferences in our collection, and select by president or specific time period. ("Document Category" = News Conferences). In several cases, the number of transcripts in our archive is slightly different from the number tabulated by others.  In modern presidencies, the Public Papers title usually includes the words "News Conference," but not always.  An interesting example is a Kennedy conference from 1961. Another interesting example is a surprise Obama appearance in the Press Briefing Room in 2012 that looks a lot like a News Conference but was not announced in advance.

We believe that our data are distinguished by the fact that categories have been applied consistently across the available population of documents.

News Conference (or Press Conference) vs Press Briefing.  Press briefings rarely involve the President--notable exceptions involved Trump's participation in Coronavirus Task Force Press briefings.  Briefings have usually been frequent--sometimes daily--meetings of the White House Press Corps with the Press Secretary (and/or others).  These provide an opportunity for the White House to convey information and for the press corps to ask questions on virtually any topic of interest.  For a period, the Trump Administration discontinued regular press briefings with the Press Secretary.  This link will take you to Press Briefings during the Biden Administration. Our collection includes over 6000 press briefings mostly starting with Clinton.  We have examined press briefings in an Analysis.

A main take-away:  Presidents have many avenues for providing information to the Press, and different Presidents combine them in different ways. Those below are not all the ways, either.  Consider interviews both on and off the record and deliberate "leaks" of information indirectly. 

ALSO SEETable showing length of time in days from presidents taking office until their first solo news conference.

Main Data Table

President Year Years Solo-Reg Prime-time Joint Total Average
total no. Conferences
Exchange
with Reporters*
Average no. Exchanges
in Office
Calvin Coolidge Totals 5.59 407 0 0 407

average
72.9
per year

 

0  
  1923-24   92 0 0 92  
  1925   88 0 0 88  
  1926   79 0 0 79  
  1927   80 0 0 80  
  1928-29   68 0 0 68  
Herbert Hoover Totals 4 268 0 0 268 average
67
per year
0  
  1929   78 0 0 78  
  1930   86 0 0 86  
  1931   62 0 0 62  
  1932-33   42 0 0 42  
Franklin D. Roosevelt Totals 12.12 881 0 0 881 average
72.7
per year
0  
  1933   81 0 0 81  
  1934   73 0 0 73  
  1935   59 0 0 59  
  1936   67 0 0 67  
  1937   73 0 0 73  
  1938   86 0 0 86  
  1939   84 0 0 84  
  1940   89 0 0 89  
  1941   78 0 0 78  
  1942   66 0 0 66  
  1943   58 0 0 58  
  1944   54 0 0 54  
  1945   13 0 0 13  
Harry S. Truman Totals 7.78 308 0 0 308 average
41.7

per year
0  
  1945   36 0 0 36  
  1946   47 0 0 47  
  1947   35 0 0 35  
  1948   31 0 0 31  
  1949   45 0 0 45  
  1950   39 0 0 39  
  1951   39 0 0 39  
  1952-53   36 0 0 36  
Dwight D. Eisenhower Totals 8 192 0 0 192 average
24
per year
1  
  1953   23 0 0 23  
  1954   33 0 0 33  
  1955   19 0 0 19  
  1956   24 0 0 24  
  1957   25 0 0 25  
  1958   21 0 0 21  
  1959   30 0 0 30 1
  1960-61   17 0 0 17  
John F. Kennedy Totals 2.84 65 0 0 65 average
22.9
per year
0  
  1961   19 0 0 19  
  1962   27 0 0 27  
  1963   19 0 0 19  
Lyndon B. Johnson Totals 5.17 135 0 0 134 average
26.2

per year
18 average
3.5
per year
  1963-64   35 0 0 35 3
  1965   17 0 0 17 4
  1966   41 0 0 41 3
  1967   22 0 0 22 4
  1968-69   20 0 0 20 4
Richard Nixon Totals 5.55 29 10 0 39 average
7
per year
34 average
6
per year
  1969   6 2 0 8 4
  1970   2 4 0 6 11
  1971   6 3 0 9 5
  1972   6 1 0 7 5
  1973   7 0 0 7 8
  1974   2 0 0 2 1
Gerald R. Ford Totals 2.45 36 3 1 40 average
16.3
per year
126 average
51
per year
  1974   4 1 1 6 2
  1975   18 1 0 19 28
  1976-77   14 1 0 15 96
Jimmy Carter Totals 4 52 7 0 59 average
14.8
per year
146 average
37
per year
  1977   22 0 0 22 47
  1978   18 1 0 19 31
  1979   10 2 0 12 13
  1980-81   2 4 0 6 55
Ronald Reagan Totals 8 15 31 0 46 average
5.8
per year
401 average
50
per year
  1981   6 0 0 6 46
  1982   3 5 0 8 50
  1983   0 7 0 7 48
  1984   0 5 0 5 52
  1985   1 5 0 6 46
  1986   2 5 0 7 36
  1987   1 2 0 3 70
  1988-89   2 2 0 4 53
George Bush Totals 4 94 2 46 142 average
35.5
per year
350

average
88
per year

  1989   27 1 3 31 54
  1990   29 0 7 36 89
  1991   26 0 21 47 131
  1992-93   12 1 15 28 76
William J. Clinton Totals 8 59 3 131 193 average
24.1
per year
1052 average
132
per year
  1993   11 1 26 38 245
  1994   16 1 28 45 142
  1995   8 1 19 28 108
  1996   6 0 16 22 127
  1997   7 0 14 21 122
  1998   2 0 11 13 88
  1999   6 0 12 18 102
  2000-01   3 0 5 8 118
George W. Bush Totals 8 49 4 157 210 average
26.3
per year
472 average
59
per year
  2001   4 1 14 19 143
  2002   3 0 17 20 96
  2003   3 1 22 26 66
  2004   5 1 18 24 47
  2005   8 1 24 33 39
  2006   11 0 19 30 39
  2007   10 0 20 30 24
  2008-09   5 0 23 28 18
Barack Obama Totals 8 64 4 95 163 average
20.4
per year
201 average
25
per year
  2009   7 4 16 27 47
  2010   10 0 9 19 27
  2011   8 0 12 20 22
  2012   5 0 6 11 15
  2013   8 0 14 22 15
  2014   7 0 15 22 33
  2015   9 0 11 20 20
  2016-17   10 0 12 22 22
Donald J. Trump Totals 4 44 0 44 88 average
22
per year
710 average
178
per year
  2017   1 0 20 21 104
  2018   5 0 13 18 177
  2019   3 0 10 13 228
  2020-21   35 0 1 36 201
Joseph R. Biden Totals 3.00 14 0 19 33 average
11
per year*
392

average
131

per year *

  2021   6 0 3 9 158
  2022   5 0 7 12 116
  2023   3 0 9 12 114
  2024   0 0 0 0 4

* The APP provides an "average" per year, monthly after the 20th day.  Averages above as of January 20, 2024.

Average News Conferences per Year

Average "Solo" News Conferences per Year

Average "Joint" News Conferences per Year

 


Last Updated

January 20, 2024

Source(s)

• Coolidge data from Lyn Ragsdale, Vital Statistics on the Presidency (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1998), 170-71.
• Roosevelt - present data compiled by Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project.

Also see:  Martha Joynt Kumar, Managing the President's Message:  The White House Communications Operaition (Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007)

Citations

Gerhard Peters. "Presidential News Conferences." The American Presidency Project. Ed. John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters. Santa Barbara, CA: University of California.  https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/323900