Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bush Meeting Reporters Off the Record

WASHINGTON (AP) -- At a low ebb of his presidency, George Bush is quietly meeting with small groups of White House reporters in off-the-record sessions.

The meetings, designed for informal discussion, are an expansion of off-the-record chats that Bush has held with new White House beat reporters for several years. Previous presidents have met with reporters in similar settings, and other Washington newsmakers also hold occasional off-the-record sessions.

The Associated Press and other news organizations have participated in the meetings with Bush. The New York Times said Tuesday that it would not.

''We welcome any and all opportunities to talk to the president, and all other newsmakers for that matter,'' AP Washington bureau chief Sandy Johnson said. Off-the-record meetings are not a substitute for on-the-record sessions, she said.

Bush has been available to the press corps in a variety of formats: one-on-one interviews, group interviews, photo opportunities and wide-ranging news conferences.

Last week, Bush held the 28th full news conference of his presidency.

A separate tactic in Washington -- background briefings to large groups of reporters on condition that none of the information be attributed to anyone by name -- is widely opposed by news organizations, including the AP.

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