WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION PRACTICES AND PRINCIPLES
July 4, 2015
Subject: [WHCA Wires] [WH Pool] Practices and Principles of White House Coverage
Dear journalists of the White House press corps,
We present to you today the Practices and Principles documents that each of you helped to draft over the past year. This represents our shared belief about the best path to transparency and openness at the White House, the institution we are privileged to cover for millions of Americans and people the world over. Some of the particular requests are already common practice at the White House. Some of them are not. We urge the White House to embrace them all – in letter and in spirit -- to demonstrate its commitment to transparency and respect for an independent press. We urge all serious presidential campaigns to do the same. And we urge you, the members of the White House press corps, to read them again and to commit yourself to making them a reality. We can’t think of a better way to mark the Fourth of July.
The members of the White House Correspondents’ Association Board
Christi Parsons, President
Carol Lee, President-elect
Jeff Mason, Vice President-elect
Margaret Talev, Treasurer
Scott Horsley, Secretary
DOWNLOAD DECLARATION PDF
As members of the White House press corps, we affirm our duty to vigorously protect the public's right to know about the work of their elected and appointed officials, particularly the Office of the President of the United States.
We believe that the public's right to know depends on the broadest possible access by the press to cover the full range of activities that the President and his or her administration undertake in performing the public's business. We believe that limitations on the press to fully report on these activities in conducting the public’s business undermine public trust in government.
We therefore embrace, on behalf of all those guided and governed by the First Amendment, our responsibility to demand meaningful and consistent access to the President and his or her aides whenever and wherever they conduct the public's business.
To that end, we have defined a set of Principles and Practices to guide journalists and the White House alike in fulfilling their obligation to inform:
· The press must be able to see, hear, witness and question the President and his or her aides on a routine basis, in addition to the daily White House briefing.
· The press must have the ability to question the President in person on a regular basis, including through a full news conference at least once a month and in response to significant news developments.
· The White House press pool always accompanies the President when he or she travels outside the White House grounds.
· The President’s events are by default open to the full press corps and, in the instance of legitimate space constraints, are at minimum open to the full press pool.
· The press has regular access to the President’s aides, beyond those in the White House Press Office.
· Briefings by administration officials are on the record, as a general practice. Background briefings where officials are not identified by name are reserved for subjects of special sensitivity.
· The White House discloses the President’s and Vice President’s daily schedule and informs the press of any changes in a timely fashion.
--The members of the White House Correspondents’ Association
( DOWNLOAD PRACTICES AND PRINCIPLES PDF
The President takes questions from the press on a regular basis, no less than once per week, and is available in response to significant news developments.
The President holds full press conferences at least once a month and takes questions frequently from the pool.
The President allows the pool to witness and record him or her at work on a regular basis.
The press corps or its designated pool sees the President frequently on working days, and sees the President on weekends and holidays whenever there are movements by the protective pool.
When the President leaves his or her domicile, he or she is always accompanied by a protective pool that visually witnesses, at the least, arrivals and departures from any place of entrance or exit that is in view of the public, and covers the President in the act of doing the public’s business.
Pool “sprays,” in addition to offering visual journalists the chance to record the President at work, are a time for reporters to ask the President questions about the events of the day.
Briefings are on the record, as a general practice. Background briefings, in which speakers are not identified, are reserved for subjects of special sensitivity.
Embargoes are used to give reporters time to digest complicated or dense material in advance of its public release. Their use should be limited, and never used routinely to generate early-morning coverage of a White House event where no outside input is permitted.
The pool moves as a full group (as laid out in section two) with members representing each sector of the media. When in rare circumstances the White House makes the President available to a partial pool (in a stills-only or photojournalists-only event, for example) the rest of the pool gets access to see, hear and question the President in close succession.
The President takes questions from the full traveling press corps frequently during foreign trips. Foreign leaders who meet with the President take questions in a side-by-side news availability or press conference. In settings where a foreign leader refuses to take questions from the press corps, the President takes questions independently.
In dealing with host governments during foreign travel, the White House works to admit the full pool to all significant events. When the U.S. is the host government, American officials work to achieve the same level of openness and press access that are expected when the American delegation is the guest.
Minimum Standards for the Constitution of the Press Pool:
*Open Press, with full and free access by all media requesting it, should be the default.
*The press corps urges the White House and all serious Presidential campaigns to admit expanded pools (greater than the size of the 21-member in-house pool) whenever possible.
*The White House Press Pools are formed to represent the wider press corps in settings where the full press corps cannot be reasonably accommodated. The pool is assembled to reflect the broad array of media through which the American people and those all over the world consume their news.
*The pools are assembled by the press corps. Every hard-pass holder is eligible to apply for membership in one or more pools, and to be admitted must meet the criteria of the individual pool administrators. (The TV pool sets its criteria and admits members, as do the Radio, Print and Foreign Press Group pools. The Wires do not pool.)
*The In-town Travel Pool consists of no fewer than 13 members (three wire writers, four still photographers, one independent still photographer, one print pooler, one radio pooler and three network crew members).
*The Air Force One Traveling Pool consists of no fewer than 13 members (three wire writers, four still photographers, one print pooler, one radio pooler, one WHCA print pooler and three network crew members). Digital, multimedia and foreign press are eligible to participate through the supplemental pool rotation to fill open seats.
*The In-House Pool, for events on the White House complex, consists of no fewer than 21 members (In-town Travel Pool plus three for AP TV or CSPAN, foreign pooler, Dow Jones and AFP wires and two extra camera crew for the network pool).
*For events outside the Washington, D.C., area, the pool should include at least one member of the local print press. The local pooler should have access to all events open to the print pool, including fundraisers, leisure activities and church events. Members of the WHCA and the White House will extend to the local pooler all courtesies usually given to any member of the White House press corps.
Air Force One: Whenever the President travels on Air Force One, there is a full Traveling Press Pool traveling with him or her.
Bill Signings are open to the pool.
Briefing Room: All Presidential appearances in the briefing room are open press.
Briefing Room Feed: Presidential remarks at open press events are fed live to the briefing room. Presidential remarks at pooled press events are fed live to the briefing room or replayed as soon as possible, except under exceptional circumstances. Gaggles on Air Force One are fed live to the briefing room, when technology allows, and are replayed when requested.
Camp David and/or personal Presidential retreats: The White House discloses where the President is at all times and what he or she is doing, including the appointments he or she is keeping, calls he or she is making and other public business. The leisure rules (see below) apply.
Campaign events: Any campaign event at which the President appears, while seeking reelection or on behalf of another candidate or committee, is open press and the full pool is always there. A transcript of the President's comments are made available to the press in a timely manner.
Celebrations on the South Lawn: Pool covers celebrations with entertainment (such as Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day, the annual congressional picnic, etc.).
Church or House of Worship: When the President attends a religious service, the 13 members of the in-town travel pool have a photo spray on arrival or departure from the service. The four print reporters, the radio reporter and the TV producer sit in on the service, but only if the full pool cannot be accommodated. The service may or may not be recorded for broadcast, at the host's discretion.
East Room and South Lawn events: are open press events, with an exception for space restrictions at events like “In Performance.” In case of exception, full pool is admitted.
Embargoes: Information that has been previously made public by the White House or other agencies is not subject to embargoes. Embargoes are not to be used to prohibit news organizations from publishing information they acquire through independent channels in advance of a public release from the White House.
Evacuations of the White House and other emergencies: As in the critical coverage of the events of 9/11, the White House keeps a pool (only as restricted as is absolutely necessary, and including at least one representative of each media platform) in close proximity to the President at all times. When the White House goes on lockdown and/or the President is moved to a secure portion of the White House or off-campus facility, the White House takes care to keep a tight pool in close proximity and fully informs the press corps as expeditiously as possible. We understand that the top priority of White House staff and Secret Service in emergency situations is to protect the President, but we urge officials to be mindful of the public’s right to know the President’s condition. We ask that they keep the press corps informed in a timely fashion.
Foreign leader meeting: Every meeting with a foreign leader (including heads of state, government and other prominent leaders) is preceded or followed by a pool spray.
Foreign travel: The White House and Press Advance teams work to secure the same levels of access abroad as those observed domestically.
Fundraisers: The pool covers the President’s remarks. The White House does not consent to participate in super PAC fundraisers where the super PAC is unwilling to agree to basic transparency and coverage of formal remarks.
Government media: As a general principle, the White House should not use its own videographers and photographers as a replacement for independent press coverage. When White House photographers and videographers are present, the press pool should be included whenever possible. The press pool should be given the same vantage and access to pooled and open events as the White House photographers and videographers.
Interviews: The press office notifies the press corps of when the President is taping or participating in live television, radio or online interviews, or otherwise releasing new information on social media, and, where possible, releases a transcript. Anytime an announcement or speech or statement is released via Twitter or Facebook or the like, it should be simultaneously sent out, or at least pointed out, via email to the customary White House press lists.
Kennedy Center Honors and Christmas in Washington: Open Press coverage of guest arrivals and presentation. Pool covers entire event, including remarks and performances.
Large Rooms, like the State Dining Room: in-house pools are accommodated, with additions invited as often as possible.
Large-group meetings with the President: The White House default is on the side of meaningful press access to events that involve large numbers of attendees (breakout sessions and summits, for example) and at the least notifies the members of the press corps that they are taking place and provides basic information about the sum and substance.
Leisure: The White House discloses when the President is engaging in a leisure activity outside the residence (golf, for example) and releases the names of those accompanying him or her on these trips, either in advance or as the events happen. The WH allows some reasonable amount of video and still photo access and coverage, which should never be less than the access and perspectives given to any unilateral photographers or public onlookers at the site. The full pool accompanies the President on these outings. In cases where leisure events include a politician, prominent official or head of state, a pool spray is allowed at minimum.
Livestreams: Any POTUS event that is livestreamed or otherwise disseminated contemporaneously by the White House is open to coverage by the pool. Livestreams and other White House broadcasts are not a substitute for in-person coverage of an event.
Marine One: Marine One arrivals and departures at the White House are always open press. During late night and early morning hours when the briefing room is closed, Marine One arrivals and departures are always open to the full pool. Marine One arrivals and departures at locations away from the White House are covered, at minimum, by the traveling pool.
Medical Information: As with all off-campus visits, the pool accompanies the President on medical visits. The White House releases timely information about the President's health, including any medical procedures or tests, erring on the side of speedy disclosure in the interest of making sure the public knows the state of the President's health and capacity at all times.
Motorcade: The lead Press Van is no more than 10 vehicles behind the President’s vehicle in the motorcade.
Newsmaker meetings: There is pool coverage of arrivals with heads of state, congressional leaders and bill signings, or any other event at which the White House plans to release a contemporaneous photo.
Off-campus events: When the President leaves the White House or off-campus site for a private event, the White House discloses what he/she is doing even if the pool is not admitted.
On-the-record briefings: For briefings that are conducted on background, the White House provides an explanation for why briefers should not be identified. Briefers should always be identified at least to the participants in a call so they know who is speaking even if they cannot name them in their reports. Conducting briefings on “deep background” is discouraged in almost all circumstances.
Photo pool sprays: The President takes questions from the press several times a week during pool sprays with the full pool. Pool sprays are open to the full pool and are a time for reporters to observe the President in person and ask him or her questions.
Presidential movements: When the President leaves the White House grounds by car or on foot, there is a full pool walking with him/her or in the main package of the motorcade.
Print Pool Reports: Print pool reports are the responsibility of the pooler, and the White House shall not exercise any editorial role or delay dissemination. Staffers may point out factual inaccuracy, but the decision on any changes rests with the independent print pooler. The print pool and the WHCA board take responsibility for sending corrections and clarifications.
Public Schedule: The White House releases a daily public schedule for the President that notes meetings in which he or she is doing the public’s business.
Rose Garden events: are always open for press coverage.
Secret pools for trips to danger zones: The White House runs the regular rotations to select the members of these pools. Pool participants agree to scrupulously keep the formation of the pool, the trip and its details off the record, and all information very closely held, until the White House releases it on the record.
Stakeouts: Visitors to the White House complex always have the option to make an open press appearance at the stakeout location.
State Dinners: Pool covers – at the very least -- toasts, arrivals and entertainment. The White House opens these events up to an expanded pool upon request.
Transcripts and/or audio of gaggles: The offices of the President, vice President and first spouse release all official transcripts they generate to the press corps as soon as they are available.
Travel Planning: The White House provides off-the-record guidance for planning purposes well in advance of all Presidential trips.
Twitter and social media: White House social media accounts should not be used to circumvent the press corps.
Vacations: are covered by the press corps and pools. On-camera briefings are conducted on a periodic basis, by call of the White House or request of the news media.
Vice President: The vice President abides by the same level of transparency as these principles outline for the White House in general.
Visitor Logs: The White House provides records of White House visitors on an ongoing basis, in keeping with its voluntary disclosure policy.
White House records: The White House has a heightened obligation to release records dealing with the president’s health, finances and ethics. The tax returns and medical report of the president should be released as they are completed. Names, titles and salaries of all White House employees should be disclosed at least annually. Ethics waivers and White House visitor’s logs should be disclosed on an ongoing basis.
The White House should comply with all relevant executive orders and presidential memoranda concerning open access to data by other executive branch agencies, including Executive Order 13642. White House data is to be released in machine-readable, nonproprietary, bulk format, and the White House should maintain a separate data inventory page on its web site. The White House will not hamper any legitimate attempts by news outlets attempting to gain automated access to its electronic resources, including web crawling, scraping or retransmission of live feeds.
* Special practices for Fundraisers:
Fundraisers should be open press wherever possible, and otherwise open to the full pool. The very smallest pool that should go in is the "print pool," also known as the "pencils" in the travel pool (the print pooler, a TV producer, three wire writers and a magazine writer).
The print pool covers – at the very least -- the President’s formal remarks. The White House facilitates the flow of information including, but not limited to, the name of the host, the number of people in attendance and the ticket price (suggested contribution, range of contributions or minimum amount). Where the group is especially exclusive (i.e. fewer than 20 people) a list of attendees is also provided.
When the President appears at super PAC events, the White House discloses or directs the sponsor to disclose to the pool the same information (or comparable information) as is supplied at other fundraisers.
The information comes in as a timely fashion, at minimum by the morning of the event.
The pool covers, at minimum, the President's opening remarks at the event.
The White House provides a readout of the portions of the event that the pool does not witness.
* Campaign Accommodations:
We believe that transparency does not begin in the White House, and that all presidential aspirants embrace these principles and practices, to the extent applicable. In all sections herein, “the Candidate” shall be substituted for “the President,” and “the Campaign” shall be substituted for “The White House” for the purposes of establishing the minimum standards for press access on campaigns. Specific practices relating to monitoring the minute-by-minute movements of candidates shall only be applicable once a protective pool has been formed, but campaigns are encouraged to include the press in as many of the candidates’ activities as possible before that point. Pooled events shall not be used as a substitute for open press access to the candidate.
WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES 2015 AWARD WINNERS
March 31, 2015
Contact: WHCA president Christi Parsons
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or Julia Whiston of the WHCA at 202-266-7453 or E-mail: email@example.com.
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
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.
Chief Washington Correspondent
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.
A NOTE TO MEMBERS (10/15/14)
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.
A NOTE TO MEMBERS (9/22/14)
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.
A NOTE TO MEMBERS (9/15/14)
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
Pittsburgh, April 16
Initial invoice: $2001
New York, May 15
Initial invoice: $2194
Chicago, May 23
Initial invoice: $3587
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.
July 9, 2014 - WHCA Election Results
Jeff Mason, Reuters
Jeff Mason, Reuters
Todd Gillman, Dallas Morning News
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.
Photo/J.M. Eddins Jr.
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President and Mrs. Obama walking down Pennsylvania Avenue during the 2009 inaugural parade. Photo: Doug Mills, New York Times.
WHCA℠ OFFICERS 2015-2016
President: Carol Lee, Wall Street Journal
Vice President:Jeff Mason, Reuters
Secretary: Major Garrett, CBS
Treasurer: Olivier Knox, Yahoo
WHCA℠ Board Members 2015-2016
Margaret Talev, Bloomberg
Doug Mills, NYT
Todd Gillman, Dallas Morning News
Julie Pace, AP
Jon Decker, Fox Radio
WHCA Executive Director