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WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES 2015 AWARD WINNERS

March 31, 2015

Contact: WHCA president Christi Parsons

202-824-8294

cparsons@tribune.com

The White House Correspondents' Association is proud to announce the winners of its annual journalism awards. The awards will be presented at the WHCA's annual dinner on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

For the Aldo Beckman Memorial Award, which recognizes repeated excellence in White House coverage, the winner is Peter Baker of The New York Times. Baker won the Merriman Smith Memorial Award in 2014.

The Merriman Smith Memorial Award, which recognizes deadline work in both print and broadcast, goes to Josh Lederman of the Associated Press and Jim Avila of ABC News.

The Edgar A. Poe Award, which recognizes coverage of news of national or regional significance, is shared by Carol A. Leonnig of The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal team of Gary Fields, John R. Emshwiller, Rob Barry and Coulter Jones

 

THE ALDO BECKMAN MEMORIAL AWARD

This recognizes repeated excellence in White House coverage, with a single award for either a print or broadcast journalist. The award this year is given to Peter Baker of The New York Times.

From the judges:

Baker's pieces are written with depth, insight and authority. He uses his longevity on the beat to give his stories the historic context that lifts them beyond the crush of daily coverage. Strong reporting makes for good writing, as Baker shows time and again. Iraq, he writes, is the "graveyard of American ambition."

Special mention to Scott Horsley of National Public Radio for his creative coverage of White House policies and politics. Like Baker, but through use of the broadcast medium and natural sound, Horsley offers interesting, insightful takes on the president's efforts to make a difference in the turbulent world of 2014.

THE MERRIMAN SMITH MEMORIAL AWARD

This award recognizes presidential news coverage under deadline pressure, with separate awards for print and broadcast journalists.

Print: Josh Lederman, AP, "Fence Jumper"

Broadcast: Jim Avila, ABC News, "Cuba/Alan Gross"

 

From the judges:

When a jumper made it over the White House fence in September, Josh Lederman was not only in the right place at the right time, but he quickly realized this was more than the less-than-routine, but not unheard of, security breaches at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The first to report that the intruder actually made it inside the White House before being apprehended, Lederman was also resourceful enough to use social media to locate an official source for comment on a Friday night, when official Washington normally rolls up the sidewalks, to confirm his hunch that the breach was more serious than it was being portrayed. Lederman's quick thinking and ability to turn around a story with nuance in a short time frame made this report stand out.

Jim Avila didn't stop after breaking news that U.S. contractor Alan Gross was being released by the Cuban government after five years. Avila kept going -- both on the story and on the map. In a whirlwind day of reporting, Avila reported Gross' release, detailed negotiations behind it, explained the prisoner swap that was part of it and alerted viewers of the steps to thaw Cuban relations that the president was about to announce. He filed those reports while hopping from Miami to the Caymans to Havana, where he capped a day of news by interviewing Cubans about the historic changes. From tight, breathless morning reports where every word was news, to relaxed man-on-the-street evening interviews, Avila told the whole story on merciless deadlines. That's the sort of excellence in presidential news coverage under deadline pressure that the Merriman Smith Award is meant to honor.

 

EDGAR A. POE AWARD

This award recognizes excellence in coverage of news of national or regional significance. This year, it goes to two entries:

The Wall Street Journal's Gary Fields, John R. Emshwiller, Rob Barry and Coulter Jones, "America's Rap Sheet"

Carol A. Leonnig of The Washington Post, "Secret Service"

 

From the judges:

Insightful and dogged reporting by The Wall Street Journal's Gary Fields, John R. Emshwiller, Rob Barry and Coulter Jones documents the erosion of citizen trust in law-enforcement officials, chronicles the inadequate data keeping of killings by police and reveals the startling statistic that nearly one third of the adult American population has an arrest record. "America's Rap Sheet" explores the roots and consequences of our country's current policing crisis, illuminating the stunning dysfunction of a system that contributes to the disenfranchisement of our most vulnerable citizens. The Journal's findings – impossible to ignore – have been duly noted by federal officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, who called the work "significant."

Carol A. Leonnig of The Washington Post shares the Edgar A. Poe Award for her tenacious and revelatory beat reporting on problems within the United States Secret Service. Leonnig showed, over and over, how security lapses and other serious shortcomings at every level of the sprawling agency have undermined its very mission, especially in protecting the President of the United States. In shedding light on these longstanding problems, and the Secret Service's inability to effectively reform itself, her coverage truly exemplifies what the Poe Award stands for -- excellence in coverage of news of national or regional significance.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Daniel Wagner, Eleanor Bell and Amirah Al Idrus of the Center for Public Integrity, "Profiting from Prisoners." With the privatization of America's prisons, inmates now are charged for everything from toilet paper to winter clothes. This two-part series examines how the prison commissary has become a profit center. Particularly startling was the investigation of how prisons collaborate with a Miami-based company that forces prisoners' families to use its services and skims high fees from all transactions.

 

Judges for the Aldo Beckman Memorial Award:

Tom Diemer, Medill News Service, Northwestern in DC

Barbara Cochran, University of Missouri

Indira Somani, Howard University

 

Judges for the Merriman Smith Memorial Award:

Ellen Shearer, Medill News Service, Northwestern in DC

Steve Crane, Cronkite News Service, Arizona State University in DC

Jackie Jones, Consultant and writing coach

 

Judges for the Edgar A. Poe Award:

A'lelia Bundles, Foundation for the National Archives

Amy Eisman, American University

Josh Meyer, Medill News Service, Northwestern in DC

Barbara Feinman Todd, Georgetown University

 

 

WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES 2015 AWARDS

January 9, 2015

The White House Correspondents' Association is presenting three major journalism awards at the annual dinner on April 25, 2015 to recognize distinguished reporting. The awards are among the most prestigious in our field. Prizes range from $1,000 to $2,500. You are encouraged to review your 2014 reporting and consider entering the competition.

The three contests are open to print and broadcast journalists. The WHCA board has enlisted the Medill School of Journalism and Ellen Shearer, co-director of the Medill News Service here in Washington, D.C., to help coordinate the judging of the three contests.

The Merriman Smith Award ($2,500) recognizes presidential news coverage under deadline pressure, with separate awards for print and broadcast journalists. Broadcast tapes (DVD) also may be submitted with scripts.

The Aldo Beckman ($1,000) recognizes repeated excellence in White House coverage, with a single award for either a print or broadcast journalist. Entries may be in the form of clippings, original material, wire copy printouts, photocopies or broadcast scripts. Online entries must be original Web content. Broadcast tapes (DVD) also may be submitted with scripts.

The Edgar A. Poe Award ($2,500) recognizes excellence in coverage of news of national or regional significance, with a single award for either a print or broadcast journalist. Entries may be in the form of clippings, original material, wire copy printouts, photocopies or online entries. Broadcast tapes (DVD) also may be submitted. Online entries must be original Web content.

The deadline for entries is March 4, 2015. If you have any questions, please contact: Ellen Shearer of Medill News Service, Chair of the WHCA Awards Committee, at 202-661-0102 or E-mail: shearer@northwestern.edu or Julia Whiston of the WHCA at 202-266-7453 or E-mail: whca@starpower.net. We will send you a separate mailing later to provide details about the upcoming dinner.

MORE INFO AND DOWNLOADABLE ENTRY FORMS

WHCA 2015 DINNER NEWS

Cecily Strong
Photo: Mary Ellen Matthews/ NBC Universal

WASHINGTON -- The White House Correspondents' Association is pleased to announce that Saturday Night Live's Cecily Strong will be the entertainer at our annual dinner on April 25, 2015.

"Her political humor is sly and edgy, and it comes with a Chicago accent. Cecily grew up in suburban Oak Park, Ill. and got her start in Chicago's comedy scene with stints at iO and Second City," said WHCA President Christi Parsons.

Journalists are perennial targets for the WHCA entertainer, but Cecily has an edge: Her father, Bill Strong, served as Associated Press bureau chief in the Illinois Statehouse. Strong will be the fourth woman to serve in this role.

Founded in 1914 to represent the White House press corps, the association works to maintain independent news media coverage of the president, advocating for access, handling logistics for pools of reporters who stay close to the president and those who travel with him, and providing scholarships to journalism students.

The annual dinner traditionally draws the President and First Lady as well as many other senior government officials and members of the news media. Proceeds from the dinner go towards scholarships for aspiring journalists and awards recognizing excellence in the profession.

WHCA contact:
Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent
Yahoo News
(202) 669-4950
@OKnox

WHCA PANEL DISCUSSION DEBUTS ON C-SPAN

October 27 at 8:30pm ET on C-SPAN2 (repeats at 1:04 am, October 28)
White House Correspondents Association Hosts Former and Current White House Reporters

White House Correspondents' Association Panels at the National Association of Broadcasters

Former White House correspondents share their experiences covering presidents from Jimmy Carter to President Obama. They discussed some of the changes since their White House assignments, including access to the president and how contemporary media had influenced these changes. Participants included Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, Terence Hunt of the Associated Press and Susan Page of USA Today.

whca-vets

A NOTE TO MEMBERS (10/15/14)
OPEN PRESS

Press corps,

You may have heard that the WHCA is developing a Google list by which the print poolers can communicate with one other. I wanted to let you know directly what we're working on.

Our goal here is to build a supplementary system for the print poolers so they can send out information directly to other reporters whenever they feel they need to, much as the TV and Radio poolers do now.

So we've built a Google list for print poolers and given them permission in our pool guidelines to send "advisories," noting things like where the pool is holding, when they expect to send the next pool report, whether a correction might be forthcoming, and so on.

After a few months of this, we'll evaluate how it's going. If it's working, the next step will be to widen distribution of these advisories to the larger press corps Google list that we are currently building.

The board agrees that every journalist who wants information from the print pooler should be able to get it -- the same information as everyone else gets, delivered at the same time.

What is our motivation here? We simply want to have a back-up to the current system, in case of occasional breakdown, and to give poolers an alternative in emergencies when they feel they need to distribute information more quickly than going through the White House.

This measure should assure people of the independence that we believe exists already.

As we have been working on this project, some members of the press corps have asked if we're looking to cut distribution of pool information to exclude those who don't perform pool duty. Let me be clear – this supplementary system is NOT an attempt to cut anyone out.

Every journalist who wants the pool report and pool information is entitled to it, whether they can afford to staff the pools or not. It's a privilege to provide the pool report and a right for every journalist to receive it. Some of our most persuasive advocates for access are people who can't staff the pools. We value their contributions immensely.

People also ask about the costs of running this supplementary system. We think they'll be minimal, but we don't know for sure – just as we don't know the unintended consequences of altering this complicated operation. We'll learn as we go along.

Finally, here's the question we hear most often: Is the WHCA hatching a plan to take over distribution of the pool reports, cutting the White House out of the operation?

The answer to that is "No." As a group of very busy volunteers, we have our hands full staffing and organizing the pools as they are now. We think this supplementary system will achieve our goals without interrupting a crucial public service, even for a single day. Too many people depend on it. We won't act rashly.

The White House will continue to distribute the pool reports to the thousands on the list. Our list is a supplement and a back-up.

The system has run for decades without failure and we respect the historic responsibility upon us to keep it going.

Let me know if you have questions.

Christi

A NOTE TO MEMBERS (9/22/14)
OPEN PRESS

Press corps,

Thanks to everyone who helped get the congressional picnic open to full pool coverage last week. Several people were involved, and I'd like to take a moment of your workday to explain how they did what they did.

Alerted by Jon Garcia and Wes Barrett, board member Margaret Talev was the first to ask questions about the closed-press event on the schedule as she began her Duty Officer duties last weekend. (Under our new practice, a different WHCA board member is on duty each week to stay on top of the president's schedule and to advocate for press access every day.) She was able to get the print pool included by the time the schedule went out to the fuller press corps.

She alerted the rest of the board on Tuesday that the photojournalists were not yet included, and board members Jeff Mason and Doug Mills immediately began pressing the case from their position in the traveling pool. Major Garrett wrote an eloquent letter to Josh Earnest. And several members raised the question individually with the press office, notably print pooler Steven Dennis.

In the end, the right thing happened -- the full pool was admitted. And with the practice now affirmed both by the press corps and the press office, we have reason to believe it will be easier to make the case on similar events in the near future. The full board underscored that in its monthly meeting with Josh at the end of the week.

I can name several other successes over the past two months as the Duty Officer rotation has hit its stride. Carol Lee got the White House to admit the full pool to the Rose Garden one afternoon to watch the president at work. With that groove cut, we got a repeat performance a few weeks later. Several events have gone from closed-press to full pool. Diplomatically pushing back against the exclusion of the print pool from a photo spray on the road last week, Jeff Mason helped get an expanded pool into the very next photo spray.

As you all know, we are working on putting a fuller set of practices in writing, in the hopes of protecting and preserving them for this press corps and for the journalists who come after us. More than 40 members have contributed their ideas to this document, and our conversations are continuing. We hope that this exercise will help us better understand the standards we all think are important and to push for them as a group.

Still, no matter what kind of progress we make on that front, your vigilance is critical to our constant push for greater access and openness.

It's one thing to complain around the press room. It's much more effective to join our voices together in a thoughtful, persuasive call for what we believe is right and fair.

That's what you did this week, and things went just a little bit better because you did.

Thanks to all.

Christi

 

A NOTE TO MEMBERS (9/15/14)

Press Corps,

I want to let you know about a breakthrough I think we've had with the White House on the AF One travel bills. As many of you know, our bills for air travel spiked wildly starting with trips taken in February.

When those bills rolled in, we asked some questions, and things started happening. Josh Earnest launched a review, which turned up more information than I'd ever seen before about how the bills are put together. And then last week he presented a new formula to us, along with a plan to recalculate all of the bills for trips starting in mid-February.

The new formula says ‎press travel with the president or vice president will be calculated "at the lowest available fare that is unrestricted, fully refundable, and available for purchase by the general public." Reimbursement will be based on fares available between 7 - 14 days in advance of travel.

As it turns out, the old standard simply said "full coach fare" and that allowed for a whole range of choices by the folks in the military office who were doing the bills.

As of now, the White House Travel Office is taking over the calculations from the military office. They propose to recalculate all bills issued since Feb. 14 and to issue new invoices for all travel since that date. Refunds will be issued for those who paid the old bills, beginning as early as today.

The travel office hopes to finish sending out new bills by the end of October.

Here's one sign of how the formula will change things: the February trip to California will go from the roughly $17,000 previously billed to about $3,500.

Other recalculations will look like this:

Miami, March 20
Billed: $4540
New: $1049

Pittsburgh, April 16
Initial invoice: $2001
New: $1138

New York, May 15
Initial invoice: $2194
New: $728

Chicago, May 23
Initial invoice: $3587
New: $1162


Though the White House says it wasn't their intent to lower costs for us, but rather to provide the transparency and predictability that we had asked for, it looks to us like the costs will improve not just when compared to the period of the cost spikes but also when compared to the pre-spike period.

Here's how that looks to us:

Chicago, IL to JBA
5/30/2013 – $1461.00 per person
4/2/2014 – $1469.00 per person
5/23/2014 – $3587.00 per person
5/23/2014 (updated fare) – $1162.00 per person

Palm Springs, CA to JBA
6/9/2013 – $1811.00 per person
2/17/2014 – $7051.00 per person
2/17/2014 (updated fare) – $1323.00 per person

Miami, FL to JBA
6/12/2013 – $1228.00 per person
3/20/2014 – $4540.00 per person
3/20/2014 (updated fare) – $1049.00 per person

New York, NY to JBA
10/25/2013 – $865.00 per person
5/15/2014 – $2194.00 per person
5/15/2014 (updated fare) – $728.00 per person

Pittsburgh, PA to JBA
7/6/2012 – $982.00 per person
4/16/2014 – $2001.00 per person
4/16/2014 (updated fare) – $1138.00 per person

Any member of the WHCA board can go on at length about the process that got us to this point. If you want lots of detail about how it works, ask me or Todd Gillman, a longtime traveler who has been raising this issue for years and then joined in the talks after he was elected to the board this summer.

If you have specific questions, please direct them to us first to see if we can handle them. We'd like to keep the travel office free to get these bills out as quickly as they can.

In the meantime, I hope any of you who were thinking about dropping out of the traveling pool because of the wild spikes will reconsider that idea. Your part in the pool process is critical, and the loss of even one news org would be a huge detriment.

Best,

Christi


July 9, 2014 - WHCA Election Results

PRESIDENT 2016-2017
Jeff Mason, Reuters

AT-LARGE SEAT
Jeff Mason, Reuters

NEWSPAPER SEAT
Todd Gillman, Dallas Morning News

PHOTOGRAPHER SEAT
Doug Mills, New York Times

MAY 3, 2014

Visit our 2014 DINNER page for complete coverage of the #WHCD. Links available on that hub page connect to this year's slideshow, the awards and scholarships pages, and the C-SPAN video of the arrivals, awards and scholarship presentations, followed by President Obama's remarks, and the after-dinner entertainment segment presented by Joel McHale. The WHCA Centennial film, produced in collaboration with A+E, is available on our HISTORY page.

dinner linkPhoto/J.M. Eddins Jr.

 

READ PRIOR NEWS ENTRIES IN OUR ARCHIVE

 

President and Mrs. Obama walking down Pennsylvania Avenue during the 2009 inaugural parade. Photo: Doug Mills, New York Times.

WHCA℠ OFFICERS 2014-2015

President: Christi Parsons, Tribune Company; at-large 7/15/15

Vice President: Carol Lee, Wall Street Journal; at-large 7/15/16

Secretary: Scott Horsley, NPR; radio 7/15/15

Treasurer: Margaret Talev, Bloomberg News
; wire 7/15/15

WHCA℠ Board Members 2014-2015

Major Garrett, CBS News; television 7/15/16        
Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News; periodicals 7/15/16

Doug Mills, The New York Times; photographer 7/15/17

Todd Gillman, Dallas Morning News; newspaper 7/15/17

Jeff Mason, Reuters; at-large 7/15/17

George Lehner, Pepper Hamilton

Steven Thomma, McClatchy; emeritus 7/15/15

WHCA Executive Director

Julia Whiston

NEWS BLOGS AND LINKS

Several White House Correspondents' Association℠ members regularly blog about presidential coverage, delivering some of the most colorful White House stories anywhere. Here are links to a few of the most popular White House press corps blogs.

Mike Allen, Politico Playbook
http://dyn.politico.com/playbook/

Mike Allen, Politico Playbook

Mark Silva, Chicago Tribune
http://blogs.trb.com/news/politics/blog/

Mark Silva, Chicago Tribune, The Swamp


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