Media Clash at Schwarzenegger Conference

By: Jim Wasserman, Associated Press Writer

(AP) Journalists more interested in celebrity collided with those seeking answers to California’s dire finances as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger conducted his first official news conference Tuesday.

Schwarzenegger’s briefing attracted so many reporters it had to be moved to one of the city’s largest public auditoriums. For veteran reporters, many with decades in the Capitol covering the often unglamorous minutiae of state politics, it was an occasion to shake their heads in wonder.

With dozens of hands raised for questions and time running out, an audible groan accompanied a question seeking the former body builder’s opinions on steroid use in sports.

A similar reaction greeted a question that opened with “Governor, you’re a physical guy” and went on to ask about his physical “management style” with legislators, many of them rumpled, out of shape and small.

Capitol news conferences are typically sparsely attended and held in a small and somewhat shabby Capitol showroom, where print media veterans dominate the first three rows and a handful of broadcast crews sit in back.

Tuesday’s news conference reflected the atmosphere of a televised town hall meeting, where press aides rushed to questioners with microphones and the podium stood between rows of California and American flags.

Even as most questions had to do with the car tax he repealed Monday and erasing the state’s massive deficit, Schwarzenegger made light of the occasion, commenting on the beard and “handsome” glasses of a Los Angeles Times reporter asking a question about state bonds.

Schwarzenegger said a Republican legislative leader told him Monday it’s helpful to “always compliment” legislators and reporters before listening to them.

“I’m trying it out on you,” he told Jeffrey Rabin of the Times.

The novice politician promised reporters many news conferences to come, saying the press proved an invaluable help to him in years of becoming a bodybuilding sensation and movie star.

But as he extolled the press’ power “to get the message out to the people,” he faced a largely different press from the Hollywood reporters he is most accustomed to.

This group, Schwarzenegger said, was going to write things “I don’t like.”

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