Announced earlier today during a press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that four “Skype seats” will be added for members of the press that aren’t located in Washington D.C. Specifically, the virtual conferencing seats will be reserved for members of the press without a permanent White House press pass and live more than 50 miles away from the nation’s capital.
Interestingly, the current administration didn’t come up with the idea for remote access seats. The idea was originally proposed by Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press. In a podcast recorded last week, Todd said “You could have four or five ‘Skype seats’ that are only open to news organizations that are based 200 miles or more outside of D.C., so that this isn’t just a way for lazy reporters to phone it in.”
Todd continued “There are reporters whose beat (might be agriculture) and their publication is based in Omaha. But they don’t have a Washington bureau, but they may have questions. That’s the type of reporter who should have the opportunity to have a ‘Skype seat’ once a week.”
While Spicer said that the seats will be available later this week, he did not specify how reporters will be selected or what qualifications would be required for access. It’s also unclear what type of station will be setup for reporters using remote access. Traditionally, reporters are positioned in front of the podium during a briefing and the press secretary calls on reporters with questions.
Presumably, there will be some form of video equipment to broadcast the briefing to Skype users as well as a display screen to show the reporter’s face. It’s unclear if the Skype reporters will be called on, similar to the other members of the press core, or if briefings will have a set period of time for questions from Skype users. Microsoft has not commented on the use of Skype during White House press briefings.