Why There Have Been Fewer Presidential Addresses Delivered From The Oval Office

By Alex Weprin 

The Oval Office in the West Wing of the White House. Home to many memorable addresses to the American people by so many Presidents.

Recently, however, its use has diminished… and the current media culture may be a factor. The NY TimesJackie Calmes explains:

Instead of just three TV networks, Americans have myriad choices for entertainment and information, and viewership numbers for prime-time presidential addresses have fallen, to about 25 million. Faced with new competition, broadcasters resist giving airtime to presidents, so presidents give fewer addresses (and evening news conferences). When they do want to speak, they increasingly choose arrangements more comfortable to them than sitting at a desk staring at a lens — a setup that Mr. Obama, known for his oratorical skills, likes no more than Mr. Bush did…

Mr. Obama, like Mr. Bush on occasion, has come to prefer the more dramatic staging of striding down the White House’s red-carpeted Cross Hall, then coming to a stop to speak, standing, at the stately East Room entry. He did that three times in 2011, speaking about Osama bin Laden’s killing, plans to leave Afghanistan and a debt-limit crisis.

“Aesthetically, the walk down the Cross Hall is a very powerful thing,” Mr. Pfeiffer said.

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush also took to traveling to places pertinent to their messages, and perhaps more vivid to networks and viewers. Mr. Obama unveiled his Afghanistan policy to an audience of cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, for example. Mr. Bush addressed Hurricane Katrina from Jackson Square in New Orleans, where his speech was made possible by generators and communications equipment supplied by the White House.