Wherever there are reporters and flacks lies the certainty of tension. While the flacks are busy barring the hen house windows and doors, reporters are busy clawing — sometimes unsuccessfully — their way inside.
Tonight the White House press office limited access to President Obama‘s address on Afghanistan to a single print pooler — no wires. Some journalists within the White House Press Corps are outraged. “You can’t keep the press out of something this important,” a correspondent told FishbowlDC anonymously.
But it’s no secret that the predominant feeling amongst some reporters is that this is yet another example of the ongoing erosion of access for press at the White House. “I think it’s very unfortunate and I think board agrees with me,” said White House Correspondence Association Board President David Jackson, White House correspondent for USA Today. “A full pool should always be with the president.” Jackson and other White House correspondents expressed their concerns throughout the day.
There are essentially two factions. TV and radio people hate it because only a print pooler gets in. Print reporters, meanwhile, aren’t as charged up about it. Usually, the rule exists because there isn’t space, or folks carrying heavy equipment would cause a distraction, like the living room of a house. Of course, the White House also doesn’t have to worry about b-roll if Obama says something he shouldn’t. Some believe there are two options for the White House: one print pooler or closed press. Most reporters think the Administration prefers the latter.
We wrote White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest for comment. He declined to comment.
“Gripes about access are nothing new, and for the most part, they’re legit,” said Mediaite‘s White House Correspondent Tommy Christopher, who, along with the rest of the back five rows, has had his own struggles with access as of late. “Several months ago, I did a quick perusal of the President’s schedule, and the number and nature of the events that were completely closed to the press was absurd. One of them was a meeting with the LPGA golf team. Having a single print pooler for the Afghanistan announcement is pretty ridiculous, and I’m sure the WHCA will make some noise about it.”
Some scribes have bigger fish to fry
While most say the arrangement isn’t fair, not all reporters are seething about it, not everyone is seething. “Better than nothing,” said one correspondent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “But it seems pointless on something like this not to let the pool in.”
Even CBS White House Radio Correspondent Mark Knoller, who’s never afraid to speak up, isn’t dying to take this one on.
“Happens all the time,” he wrote to FishbowlDC. “Sixteen of the 30 fundraising events President Obama has done so far this year are ‘print pool only.’ More important to expand coverage of his political events than a straightforward address to the nation we all see and hear. There are bigger battles to be fought.”