At its best, the briefing can have a leveling effect: A reporter from an outlet that isn’t among The Chosen but might be called upon at the briefing benefits from asking their question in a public, televised setting. That means everyone will see the press secretary answering, replying, dodging, etc. For some reporters, who can’t even get their emails returned, this is a priceless opportunity. There’s also a chance that one of the Big Outlet Reporters who dominate the briefings will pick up the question, increasing the leverage necessary to pry an answer out of the White House (any White House).
It also gives reporters a rare chance to set the agenda. Yes, of course the White House would prefer to talk about the president’s great and entirely genuine affection for middle-class Americans in Ohio. But what’s he doing about the mounting death toll in Syria?
A current senior White House aide (who didn’t want to be identified) and a communications adviser in George W. Bush’s White House told Yahoo News that the briefing also serves the symbolic but crucial function of showing Americans that no one is above being questioned. The two sources independently said cancelling the briefing would “send a terrible message.”