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Reagan's Contacts With Press to Be Increased, Baker Pledges

April 11, 1987|THOMAS B. ROSENSTIEL | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr. said Friday that President Reagan is "not having adequate contact with the press" and pledged to increase the President's accessibility.

"I believe personal contact with the President is required," Baker told the annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. "It may surprise you, but he would like more too. He is not about to live in seclusion and silence in his last two years."

Baker said the Reagan Administration bore at least partial blame for what often appear to be hostile and undignified relations between the White House and the press corps. He singled out the bad feelings that have arisen because reporters frequently must shout questions at the chief executive over the whirring of his waiting helicopter.

"In all candor," Baker said, such practices "grew up because the President was not having adequate contact with the press."

Cites Donaldson

Baker told the editors: "I know I am speaking to a group of people who think the President should hold a press conference once a day, who think they should not have to compete with a helicopter for the President's ear and that there ought to be more to White Hous1696624754feeding of (ABC correspondent) Sam Donaldson.

"I want you to know I agree with all of that. . . . That does not mean there will be weekly press conferences, but we will try to communicate with you in more useful ways that preserve your dignity and the dignity of the President of the United States.

"Direct and frequent contact with the President is what is requested and required," Baker said.

More Frequent

Baker insisted, however, that he is against holding regularly scheduled press conferences. Such events should depend on what the President has to say, the chief of staff argued. But Baker agreed that they should be more frequent.

He joked when asked about his relations with First Lady Nancy Reagan, whose antipathy to former Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan reportedly helped force Regan's departure.

"I address the First Lady very carefully and very often," Baker said.

Baker also commented on the newly announced presidential candidacy of the man who succeeded him in the Senate, freshman Democrat Albert Gore Jr. from Tennessee. Baker, who ran for President himself in 1980, said he sent Gore a telegram Friday that read:

"Dear Al. I too was once a young man but I recovered."

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