Saturday December 16, 2017
Home U.S.A. White House R...

White House Reporters Prefer Sunlight to Spotlight

No more than a small designated pack of media ever assemble in the president’s famed Oval Office at any one time. This group is known as a “pool,” which shares its video, audio or notes with other non-attendees who toil for outlets on the rotating list of pool duty

0
26
white house
The White House; Source: Pixabay

Steve Herman became VOA’s White House bureau chief in March after spending 25 years as a foreign correspondent. His previous post required Herman to travel often throughout the world. Now he reports from a small booth on the world’s biggest political stories. Here are his initial impressions of day-to-day work as a White House correspondent.

The “mushroom method” refers to keeping reporters in the dark and feeding them manure. Throughout many presidential administrations, reporters assigned to the basement by the West Wing have frequently complained of being treated like mushrooms.

Philomena Jurey, who covered Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan for VOA, titled her autobiography A Basement Seat to History.

Others have compared their plight to prisoners in cramped, overcrowded quarters.

White House bureau chief Steve Herman (left) and senior correspondent Peter Heinlein discussing the day’s assignments in the small VOA studio in the basement of the West Wing.

White House bureau chief Steve Herman (left) and senior correspondent Peter Heinlein discussing the day’s assignments in the small VOA studio in the basement of the West Wing.

“Most people think the White House beat is glamorous. It isn’t,” recalls former VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson. “It can be a boring grind in a little booth that can feel stifling at times.”

Wolfson adds that despite the mostly obstructed view the reporters “are an eyewitness to history and the job is what you make of it.”

Once cleared through the northwest gate, the roaming ground for White House correspondents is quite limited with infrequent exceptions.

The reporters can meander unescorted through the two narrow floors encompassing the press briefing room. Down one floor, the basement booths and desks are where VOA and a dozen or so other news outlets maintain their White House bureaus.

‘Pebble Beach’

The only outdoor space not off limits is between the so-called “Palm Room” doors and the winding driveway from the West Wing entrance to an area of the North Lawn where TV reporters’ stand-up positions are known as “Pebble Beach” (once covered with gravel, but now asphalt).

Presidential departures and arrivals via Marine One are generally open to all media with White House passes and credentials. That allows escorted trips to the South Lawn, which doubles as a landing pad for the presidential helicopter.

The events are an opportunity for reporters to shout questions at the arriving or departing president who can feign hearing difficulties due to the noisy aircraft engines.

Members of a White House press pool waiting outside the West Wing on a chilly day.

Members of a White House press pool waiting outside the West Wing on a chilly day.

There may also be glimpses of the president entering or exiting the Oval Office.

No more than a small designated pack of media ever assemble in the president’s famed Oval Office at any one time. This group is known as a “pool,” which shares its video, audio or notes with other non-attendees who toil for outlets on the rotating list of pool duty.

VOA finds itself on in-town pool duty, on average, twice a month. That means standing by for long hours of waiting for something (or nothing) to happen and then hearing a squawk over the loudspeakers to quickly assemble at the Palm Room doors.

“Nobody is keen on pool duty,” said Wolfson who covered the White House from 1988-92 and again from 2001-2009. “You have to make sure your equipment is ready to record at all times. … And never forget to take a good book.”

These days the book is usually replaced with distracted scrolling through one’s Twitter feed.

Although pool duty is mostly mundane, it is, according to Wolfson, “a necessary evil – ask anyone who was covering the White House when Reagan was shot (in 1981 outside a Washington hotel).”

The most familiar scene involving reporters and the White House is the briefing by the press secretary.

Calling on reporters

In previous administrations, there was a tradition of calling first on a front-row senior wire service reporter (AP nowadays, UPI in decades past).

The White House Correspondents’ Associates controls the press room seating arrangements, but the White House, itself, determines which individuals receive credentials to enter and line the aisles.

FILE - White House press secretary Sean Spicer takes a question from a member of the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Feb. 21, 2017.

FILE – White House press secretary Sean Spicer takes a question from a member of the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Feb. 21, 2017.

VOA has had a full-time presence in the White House press for many decades and occupies a fourth-row permanent seat between National Journal and Fox News Radio in the briefing room.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer, much to the chagrin of the major media outlets, gives less priority to the wires and TV network journalists, instead pointing his finger over them to other reporters, including those on the sidelines. This includes those from entities so obscure that a Google search for their bylines yields no results.

Some reporters who ask questions at the daily briefings are not even in the room – they are the rotating recipients of the new “Skype seats” – their video images beamed in behind the press secretary, who has selected them in advance from across the country.

The interchange between the briefer and the questioners, in every administration, has been testy at times.

In the Trump White House, however, it has frequently turned into a test of wills. Spicer daily finds himself on the defensive, called on to explain the president’s controversial tweets. He has no reluctance to turn the tables on the media, slamming journalists and accusing them of “deliberately false reporting.”

The reporters and Spicer quickly became material for parodies on television comedy shows, most notably NBC’s Saturday Night Live, where actress Melissa McCarthy portrays an unhinged Spicer ramming reporters with his lectern.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

Life threatens to imitate art.

Spicer, when one recent briefing grew tense, quipped “don’t make me make the podium move.”

Behind the scenes in the press room, it has been less jocular.

Inclusion of far-right media

Tempers have frayed over the White House’s decision to credential commentators from far-right online websites, including those accused of supporting white nationalism and trafficking in conspiracies.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer calls on a member of the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, March 13, 2017.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer calls on a member of the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, March 13, 2017.

One such figure has commented publicly that he was in the press room primarily to dig up dirt on the established White House correspondents.

The grizzled standard-bearers of the mainstream media in the front row roll their eyes and mutter curses when Spicer points to the back of the room and calls on one of the so-called floaters – usually young Trump cheerleaders who will throw questions at Spicer with all the hardness of a beach ball.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

For the president’s supporters, the media’s criticism falls on deaf ears. Many of them are already critical of the mainstream media, so journalists’ complaints are taken as evidence the administration is following through on Trump’s attacks on the so-called “dishonest” media.

This all puts the White House press room reporters in the spotlight, despite their best efforts to keep it beamed on the president and his players.

Struggling to avoid being cultivated with the mushroom method, the subterranean journalists advocate to a sometimes-skeptical outside world the words of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” (VOA)

Next Story

US Shares List of 20 Terrorist Groups Operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan with Pakistani Authorities

Top on the list is the Haqqani Network which, the US claims, has safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and uses them to launch attacks into Afghanistan.

0
27
terrorist
According to media reports, US has shared list of terror groups operating in Pakistan with authorities in Islamabad. Wikimedia

Washington, November 2, 2017 : The White House retains a list of 20 terrorist groups that it claims are operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan and is believed to have shared this list with Islamabad, the media reported on Thursday.

However, the list was not given to Pakistani authorities by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he visited Islamabad last week, diplomatic sources told Dawn news.

The White House list includes three types of militant groups: those who launch attacks into Afghanistan, those who attack targets inside Pakistan and those who are focused on Kashmir.

Top on the list is the Haqqani Network which, the US claims, has safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and uses them to launch attacks into Afghanistan.

Pakistan strongly rejects the charge, saying that there were no such safe havens inside the country.

The US also identified Lashkar-e-Taiba as one of the largest and most active terrorist organisations in South Asia.

The other militant groups in the list include Harakatul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Jundullah, Lashkar-i-Jhanghvi and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. (IANS)

 

Next Story

John F. Kennedy’s Assassination : Trump Promises to Release all Documents

Trump said he is doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.

0
20
President John F. Kennedy's hand
President John F. Kennedy's hand, visible through the foreground convertible's windshield, reaches toward his head within seconds of the firing of the fatal shot as first lady Jacqueline Kennedy holds his forearm, with the motorcade proceeding along Elm Street past the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. VOA

Washington, October 29, 2017 : US President Donald Trump has promised to publish all documents on John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 to guarantee transparency and end any conspiracy theory on the event.

“After strict consultation with General Kelly, the CIA and other agencies, I will be releasing ALL JFK files other than the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living,” Trump said on his Twitter account, Efe news reported.

“I am doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.”

Trump had on Thursday authorised the National Archives to release 2,891 previously unpublished documents on the historic landmark, but decided to retain some of them because of what official sources described as CIA and FBI pressures.

ALSO READ Trump Delays Release of Hundreds of John F Kennedy Assassination Files, Citing National Security

“I have no choice –today– but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our Nation’s security,” Trump said in a memo on Thursday.

However, Trump gave his agencies six months until April 26, 2018, to review the reasons for their decision to keep certain documents related to John F. Kennedy’s assassination hidden and to minimize censored extracts so that they could be published as soon as possible.

He was not satisfied with his agencies’ insistence on keeping some materials secret and decided to give them more time to review them with the idea of publishing more documents, although the White House has not given a clear timeline for the next release. (IANS)

Next Story

Ivanka Trump to Talk Tax Overhaul Plan in Pennsylvania

0
11
White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump
White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump speaks at the forum Taking Women-Owned Business to the Next Level, on the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Washington. VAO

Ivanka Trump is heading to Pennsylvania to promote the Republican tax overhaul plan.

The White House says Trump will appear at a town hall in Richboro Monday, with U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza. The event will be moderated by former Rep. Nan Hayworth.

A key part of the conversation will be the proposal to expand the child tax credit, which the first daughter is backing. Ivanka Trump has been working on the plan to expand the $1,000 credit with the administration and lawmakers. Details on how much the credit should increase to have not been settled and the president’s daughter has not publicly offered a number.

Later in the day, Fox News Channel will air an interview with Ivanka Trump by host Sean Hannity. She is expected to continue discussing taxes.(VOA)