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Towson professor lectures on C-SPAN

1 September 2014 By Cody Boteler, News Editor No Comments

Martha Kumar first came to Towson in 1971, when she was encouraged by the chair of the political science department to apply for a job. Soon after, she began working with him on a book that was originally supposed to be about the White House press secretary. That idea did not last long.

“We knew there was a more interesting story than just the Press Secretary,” Kumar said. “It really was White House Communications, and how the organization operated, who was involved in it, so we just started interviewing people.”

Since then, Kumar has maintained a presence in the West Wing. She has a seat next to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner.

“I guess there’s a question of why anybody lets me in there,” she said. “There’s no academic that’s had [this kind] of access before, and I doubt that it will happen again. It was a lot of things that came together. One of those things is that I gather information that’s useful for [both the press and the White House], and it’s useful for my scholarship.”

On Saturday, Aug. 16, C-SPAN 3 aired a lecture by the political science professor, further expanding her clout in Washington.

Kumar said that C-SPAN wanted to record this particular lecture, which covers the formation of the White House Press Corps, because it is a topic that is not often discussed.

Kumar takes notes during her time at the White House to do her work. The number of press conferences, questions and answer sessions and interviews that a president gives are just a few of the things that she tracks on a truly massive spreadsheet that tracks data from the Reagan administration to the Obama administration.

“So the White House finds it useful, and reporters find it useful as well, because you always want to know ‘how [do presidents] compare?’” she said. “It’s not something they keep track of.”

As a result of her tenure in the White House, Kumar has worked with many different administrations.

One of the things that Kumar has noticed during her time working in the White House is the long hours that both sides of White House Communications must put in.
“It really is a tough existence,” she said.

However, the burnout and stress that comes with working in the West Wing is something that Kumar has personally avoided.

“See I can choose. I choose what days I come in,” she said. “My only responsibilities there are to myself.”

In addition to doing her research at the White House and teaching at Towson, Kumar does work with several other organizations, including her role on the executive committee of the White House Historical Association. She said that serving in so many roles takes up time.

“But you know, I’ve enjoyed it, and I wouldn’t give up any part of it,” she said.

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