April 17, 2024

Economix: Making the Cut for Bernanke’s News Conference

Readers of my column this week — which suggests questions for reporters to ask of Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, during his groundbreaking news conference on Wednesday — may wonder why I can’t simply ask the questions myself. There’s a simple answer: I’m not invited.

It is not personal. It’s that the Fed has decided to limit each news organization to one invitation. There is no question that The Times’s spot rightly goes to Binyamin Appelbaum, the lead Fed reporter.

I understand the Fed’s decision to limit invitations in this way. Seats at this news conference are in high demand, and the room should not be dominated by just a few newspapers and television stations. In a similar way, the White House limits news organizations to one reserved seat in the front rows of its briefing room.

But I still think the Fed’s policy is a mistake if it continues indefinitely. The universe of journalists who cover the Fed regularly — who spend the most time reporting on it and can probably ask the toughest questions — is fairly small. They tend to be concentrated at a handful of newspapers, wire services and Web sites.

The White House permits reporters to attend its briefings even if they already have a colleague there. These additional reporters simply sit further back in the room if a seat is available. In the future, it seems the Fed should follow a similar policy. Each news organization would be guaranteed only one invitation. But organizations could request a second, and the decisions would be based partly on how closely the organization covers the Fed and on the organization’s audience size.

Such a policy would prevent the Fed from having to make artificial distinctions during the multimedia age. Should CNBC and NBC get separate invitations? And should Bloomberg television and Bloomberg news service? If so, why would The Wall Street Journal and wsj.com (which often runs videos) get only one between them?

A more open policy would also prevent anyone from being able to accuse the Fed of minimizing the number of detailed questions that Mr. Bernanke might face.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0e00174ecd26d821b0fcf8bd4038371d

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