A Black and a White Reporter Make Calls on Racial Descriptions in Pool Report


Black and white issues surfaced in the White House Pool Report Thursday.

Coverage was of a rally at Bowie State University. White House Pool reporter WSJ’s Jonathan Weisman, who is white, was responsible for the write-up along with his co-Pooler, NYT Helene Cooper, an African American White House correspondent. The duo debated the issues before running it. On a note of randomness: Fox News got thrown into the mix of insults (by no fault of the reporters) and two audience members fainted.

An excerpt of the relevant parts:

…The large crowd (3,000 to 4,500, according to campus police), mainly but not at all completely young and African American, was warmed up by Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, Lt Gov Anthony Brown, and Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Potus tool the stage to sustained cheers, but in the middle of his speech, a white heckler shouted loudly, “You’re a liar.” He was swarmed by the crowd who shouted him down. He made a move to dash off, and shouted, “You’re a liar” again. One woman shouted, “We know Fox sent you.” Another man said, “Focus.” Potus seemed not to notice. And the heckling incident ended.

Two people in the audience fainted, prompting Potus to tell the crowd, “Next time you’re out here, make sure you drink something and eat something, especially when you’ve got a bunch of politicians talking.”

Asked why he felt it necessary to include the word “white” to describe the “heckler,” Weisman wrote FishbowlDC: “Interesting question. I debated it with my co-pooler, Helene Cooper, and we decided in a mostly African American crowd, it was information that reporters should have. They could use it or not, but the pool is the eyes and ears for all White House reporters. If we knew the race of the heckler, White House reporters not privy to the event should have that information too, just as we describe scenes and color that may or may not be useful to news stories.”

In the end, Weisman did not end up using “white” in his own story.  “Whether such information is newsworthy is up to the news organizations using the pool report. I for one did not use it in the story I filed for the Wall Street Journal,” he said.

Correction: FishbowlDC incorrectly wrote Helen Cooper‘s name in an earlier version of this post. It has since been corrected.