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Walter LaFeber : The First White House Press Room
Walter LaFeber One of the things that McKinley, I think, contributed to American history is the, the policies that he instituted to deal with the press. There was no White House correspondent as late as 1895. The press simply didn't cover the White House, in part because the President wasn't all that important, in part because Presidents usually hated reporters who were snooping around and so they kept them off the White House grounds. But was McKinley noted was that the number of American newspapers were tripling in circulation between roughly 1890 and 1910. What he also noticed was that there were new associations of the press, such as the Associated Press which begins at this time or the New York Sun Syndicate which became a very powerful newspaper group. And McKinley decides that these people are going to get news someplace, why not from him? So he is the person who sets up the first press room in the White House. He gives a place in the White House where correspondents, who are now welcome, can do their work. He also orders the cabinet members to meet regularly with these people. His private secretary, a man named Porter who had been a newspaper man, gives hand-outs to these people twice a day. So all of a sudden American newspapers are writing what McKinley and the White House and his cabinet want them to write. And they're very grateful for this. They are being spoon-fed news from the White House which they are putting into their newspapers and it is essentially, as McKinley sees it, all the news that's fit to print is coming out of the White House. This was new and you want to be careful and use the word "revolutionary", but it was certainly the next thing to this because from this point on, certainly McKinley's successor, Theodore Roosevelt -- American Presidents are going to be extremely careful about how they deal with the press. And McKinley's the first person to realize how you go about doing this.

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