The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room is a small theater in the West Wing of the White House where the White House Press Secretary gives daily briefings to the news media and the President of the United States sometimes addresses the press and the American nation. It is located between the workspace assigned to the White House Press Corps and the office of the Press Secretary.
In 1969, to accommodate the growing number of reporters assigned to the White House, Richard Nixon had the indoor swimming pool, which had been installed by the March of Dimes for Franklin D. Roosevelt, covered and turned into press offices and a lounge that could double as a briefing room. The swimming pool still exists, although it is now used as a crawlspace to handle the wiring of the press operations.
In 2000, the room was renamed the "James S. Brady Press Briefing Room" in honor of James Brady, the press secretary who was shot and permanently disabled during an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981.
In December 2005, the White House announced the intention to renovate the aging Press Briefing Room and cramped press corps offices. On August 2, 2006, the final briefing was held, and President Bush hosted several previous press secretaries at a closing ceremony.
President Bush reopened the renovated room in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the morning of July 11, 2007. He held his first formal press conference in the new briefing room the next day, following the release of a report on the progress of the Iraqi government.
The most noticeable change to the briefing room is a different backdrop for the press conferences, now featuring a softly lit screen flanked by mock columns instead of the previous blue curtain. The new podium also contains video screens for teleconferencing and multimedia displays. For safety reasons, the trapdoor that provided access to the old swimming pool (a popular stop for visitors) was replaced by a discreet staircase.
Ironically (given that complaints about its cramped appearance helped give rise to the renovations), the current briefing room has only one more press seat than it had in its previous incarnation.