Imagine standing in front of a podium on live TV, facing a highly intelligent group of journalists who will immediately notice if you misspeak or appear not to know the answer. The State Department spokesman does this nearly every day, and because the daily press briefings are entirely devoted to U.S. foreign policy, they are a “must-go” for international journalists in Washington.
On May 13, Secretary of State John Kerry announced John Kirby would be the new State Department spokesman. In a statement welcoming Kirby to his role, Kerry said Kirby “has stood out for his impeccable judgment, collegiality, and character. And he understands the media — absolutely.”
Kirby is stepping into a challenging job. According to one of his predecessors, Mike McCurry, who was later a White House press secretary, many of the U.S. and international journalists making up the State Department press corps have advanced degrees in international relations, in addition to years of career experience.
Fortunately, the spokesman has a lot of help. State Department staff constantly scour the U.S. and international media, in all languages, looking for breaking news stories and anticipating what journalists will ask at the next briefing. They prepare answers in the form of press guidance and carefully review the language with the spokesman just prior to the daily briefing.
“It’s the discipline of getting ready for that briefing that really helped me in the White House so much because it teaches you to be as thorough as you can be to track down every bit of information you can get,” McCurry said.
Want to stay “in the know?” You can follow the spokesman on Twitter (@statedeptspox) and watch the State Department daily briefings live.