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On 9th of June, Donald Trump and his Romanian counterpart (Klaus Iohannis) held a press conference.

That was a very important event for Romanians and it received significant media coverage, but also in many other media publications. Some analysts argued that this success was not due to Romanian President being invited in US, but mainly due to the most recent scandal involving Trump (idea from above source):

Facing reporters, however, Trump is likely to get questions about James Comey, whom he accused of "many false statements and lies" the day after the ousted FBI director gave highly critical testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

However, this subject is completely off-topic for this press conference, yet some 20% of time allocated to the questions was spent on this.

Question: Do US press conferences usually include off-topic questions?

  • If you listen to any conference between a journalist and a politician, you will always find "off-topic" questions - either outside of the politician's portfolio (energy minister being asked his views on healthcare), or a leader being asked about something more newsworthy than a photo of with a foreign dignitary. There are no rules on what the press can ask in a democratic society - but the politician also has the right to not answer. – user6298 Jun 10 '17 at 13:29
  • @HorusKol - it's normal for journalists to have this liberty. But this seems disrespectful for others, as the meeting had another subject. I wonder if some deontological code for the journalists exists and tackles this subject. However, it makes sense for them to use any time slot available to pursue their goal. – Alexei Jun 10 '17 at 13:45
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    I meant to add that this is not specific to the US. Even if there were a conference scheduled on the matter, journalists would still have broached it at the first opportunity. Frankly, I'm glad they do, because it is in the public interest to not have a media follow a politician's agenda out of "etiquette" – user6298 Jun 10 '17 at 22:52
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It seems common, at least with the current US administration but mostly when there's a hot topic. To support my answer, I will take the transcripts of a few joint press conferences and count how often certain things are mentioned that are probably not related to the subject of the meeting preceding the press conference.

2 October 2019, press conference with the President of Finland:

Mueller: 3 times
Ukraine: 8 times
Biden: 8 times

24 September 2019, talks with the President of Iraq:

election: 4 times
Schiff: 2 times
Biden: 2 times
Ukraine: 2 times

20 August 2019, talks with the President of Romania

China: 25 times

Other transcripts which don't seem to have much off-topic mentions:

24 September 2019, talks with Indian PM Modi 24 September 2018, talks with UK PM Johnson


It's not very scientific as I only pick a few words and see how often they're mentioned. I also only look at a few press conferences and when I say there aren't many off-topic mentions I've only scanned to the transcript quickly.

A much better way would be to consider years of transcripts, consider all the words in the transcripts, categorise them into on-topic and off-topic (which depends of course per press conference, what is on-topic in one may be off-topic in the other) and draw conclusion from that. That's a lot of work to implement properly.

The website I use for this, factba.se, seems to use software for automatically transcribing videos. It already links key words and key entities mentioned in the videos (based on how often they're mentioned, it seems). This works well for seeing which topics were talked about extensively, but it may not show sufficiently if off-topic subjects dominated the talks.

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