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Robert Gibbs experiments on White House press corps

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“Morning, guys. How’s everyone?”

With that, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs launched the first press gaggle of the Obama presidency to be held in Mr. Gibbs’ private office. Only a select few reporters were invited – well, more like 50, per Gibbs deputy Bill Burton, who sent out the emails early Friday. About 20 showed up for the 9:45 a.m. session. No TV cameras. Krispy Kremes on the table, courtesy of Margaret Talev of McClatchy News Service.

“It’s an experiment,” Gibbs said, seated comfortably behind his desk, a Top Secret briefing book among the clutter before him. “It’s an attempt to get you guys a readout and answer some of your questions and not wait until the briefing later in the day.”

What Gibbs didn’t say is that getting a flood of reporter questions first thing in the morning also helps him get a read on what the media are working on.

Still, how civilized, how collegial, especially since Gibbs typically holds his on-camera briefing rather late in the day – 1:30, 2 p.m., usually starting late. And in this small venue, we all had front row seats, a treat for those of us usually relegated to the back of the briefing room. Past White House press secretaries have had such informal gaggles in their offices, but after 9/11, that changed. The crowd was just too large.

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