What even is a press conference? That depends on whom you ask: Donald Trump would probably say that it's an opportunity to hit the mute button on reporters; Bernie would explain that it's a speech at which only he gets to talk; and Hillary would be like, "Do people even do those anymore?"
It's been a rough couple of days for the reporters sentenced to the campaign trail, with interactions that varied in unpleasantness from Donald insulting them to Hillary ignoring them. Press conferences have always been a bit of a flim-flam/snake-oil song and dance, but at least on occasion you used to see reporters force candidates to confront difficult questions. Now, reporters are more like an army of Pikmin obediently marching to the orders of whoever's blowing a whistle at a podium.
For example, take Trump's approach. Yesterday he enlisted a bunch of reporters as a sort of Greek chorus in a pageant about how misunderstood Trump is. The reporters were questioning Trump about his donations to veterans groups. (Trump claimed to have raised $6 million, but only $5.6 million has been accounted for, and that money wasn't coughed up until after the press began asking questions. Also, at least one of the groups spends less than half of its budget on actual programs for veterans.)
At a press conference on Tuesday, Trump converted reporters' questions into evidence of a vast media conspiracy against him. "You're a sleaze," he told a reporter from ABC who was asking too many questions. "The press should be ashamed of themselves."
He added, "the press is being very dishonest, so I don’t like that. I don’t like dishonesty."
Afterwards, he told Fox News, "I have been dealing with the press a long time. I think the political press is among the most dishonest people that I have ever met." He then tweeted that someone — he doesn't say who — is giving him "great credit" for his press conference. Sure they are, Donald, probably the same person who told you that you've got a big dick.
Having this chance to gnash his teeth at the press is a win for Trump. If anyone's going to call out his insane lies, it's reporters; and going after individual reporters could prove exhausting. But if he can get them to all cluster together at a press conference, he can just accuse them all of being liars themselves en masse.
Bernie's taking a somewhat difference approach: just pretending that reporters don't have any questions at all. He called a press conference on Tuesday, spoke for tennish minutes... and then waved and walked off. Okay, bye!
And then there's the Hillary approach: just stop holding press conferences altogether. A CNN reporter pointed that out to her, and she replied that she's done nearly 300 interviews in the last six months. Okayyyyy that's not exactly the same, so are you going to hold a press conference?
"We should answer questions," Clinton told CNN, "of course I am going to. Many, many different times."
Okay great! That's a relief! Can't wait for those many different times to start.
So to recap: Hillary's doing just fine without press conferences, and probably doesn't have any intention of holding any. Bernie passes off short speeches as press conferences. And Donald uses press conferences to make voters distrust the press.
If this is what press conferences are now, why exactly do we even have them?