The Zoom-based news conferences with Gov. Andrew Cuomo are likely to stay for a while, as the governor on Monday called the format an "effective medium" for communicating with New Yorkers.
But the arrangement of the governor's staff selecting the questioners in the press and the reporters themselves physically kept out of the room has drawn concerns from media organizations as the controversies facing Cuomo continue to mount.
Cuomo, since the start of the year, has instituted the news conferences and briefings over Zoom as the COVID-19 case rate began to climb heading into the winter months. Concerns over access to Cuomo have grown, however, as he has faced allegations of sexual harassment and criticism over his handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic.
At the same time, Cuomo has held events in public, often in cavernous spaces like the Javits Center in New York City, with the press barred.
The Journalists Association of New York last week issued a statement calling the practice "an affront to the public that the governor serves" and urged him to open the events to reporters once again.
But for Cuomo, the Zoom conferences also allow him to take questions from reporters across the state, not just those in Albany or New York City, where the political pre-occupations of the day may not match up with the concerns of most New Yorkers.
Cuomo on Monday took questions over Zoom from his New York City office, calling on reporters in Buffalo, Albany and New York City.
"That is purely a function of the COVID safety requirements," Cuomo said of keeping reporters outside of the room. "When we do a call like this we can get 200 reporters who are listening and calling in. If we do an event in the city you can get 50 reporters in a small room, easily. That's all health department guidance."
For the time being, the format likely won't change, though Cuomo opened the door to returning to normal when the pandemic is finally over.
"You can either be in the room or you can frankly never get 200 reporters in a room nowadays," he said. "But when we get back to normal with COVID, we'll get back to normal with press conferences."