Several veteran and prize-winning journalists who covered presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush say that the current crop of White House correspondents are too timid and deferential and have played a role in killing the impact of presidential news conferences.

“If you watch an Obama news conference, and watched a Bush news conference previous to that, where correspondents sit in their seats with their hands folded on their laps, [it’s] as if they are in the room with a monarch and they have to wait to be recognized by the president,” says Sid Davis, the former NBC Washington bureau chief who covered nine presidents. “It looks like they are watching a funeral service at [Washington funeral firm] Joseph Gawler’s and it shouldn’t be that way.”

Davis says “I don’t like today’s news conferences” with the president. Kennedy’s, he says, were “thoroughly unrehearsed, natural and they worked to a large extent.” Today’s versions, he adds, “look like they are rehearsed.”

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