Jennifer Psaki has been the White House press secretary for just 20 days, and yet she seems to have already become a household name. This is perhaps as much for what she hasn’t done as for what she has, says Barbie Zelizer, who runs the Annenberg School for Communication’s Center for Media at Risk at Penn.
“She is in lock-step with the traditional way of conducting a press briefing,” Zelizer says. “Everything she’s doing is very normal, predictable, usual, and in keeping with how press briefings have tended always to go. The contrast was Trump. It’s really important to emphasize that she is taking us back to a long-standing history.”
Press secretaries for former President Trump—Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for example—made news themselves for behavior that not only strayed from that of their predecessors but created an antagonistic relationship with the media. In her first briefing, Psaki seemed to take pains to return to custom.
Penn Today spoke with Zelizer about the new press secretary and what this shift back to tradition means for journalism during the Biden presidency.