Dunham Talks About Pool Reports Policy

After our post yesterday — “WHCA: Sticking With New Pool Report Policy” — Houston Chronicle D.C. Bureau Chief Rick Dunham sent in the following note:

    Thanks for your most recent item. A couple of thoughts here.

    Ann Compton is correct on all of the factual points. Since I am the de facto leader of the Gang of Eight, as Ann has dubbed us, I would argue with just one thing. We are not “smaller” newspapers. (I guess you could argue that almost every newspaper is smaller than it was a year ago, both in circulation and page size.)

    USA Today, one of our newspapers represented, is #1 in circulation among U.S. dailies. The Houston Chronicle, my paper, is #9. The Chicago Tribune is #8. The others at the meeting were Dallas (#13), San Diego (#24), Cox Newspapers (#18 Atlanta, Austin), Hearst (Houston plus #12 SF, San Antonio and Seattle) and McClatchy (Miami, #19 Minneapolis, #25 Sacramento and much more).

    The three papers on the other side of this are the NY Times (#3) and Wall Street Journal (#2), which attended the meeting, and the Washington Post (#7), which did not.

    The ten largest papers in the country are divided on this, with three favoring the WHCA action, four opposed (if you include Gannett’s Arizona Republic) and three (LA Times, NY Post, NY Daily News) not having taken a public position, to my knowledge. If “smaller papers” means those outside the top ten, I think they would be close to universally negative on the policy.

    Ann is right: Our recent discussions have been productive. She and we want to work toward a solution to the dual issues of (1) declining press travel caused by newspaper economics and rising costs of White House travel and (2) what kind of right the public has to information from inside the presidential bubble and who has the right/responsibility/power to make those kinds of decisions. I give Dean Baquet a lot of credit for coming to this with an open mind and understanding the nuances of a WHCA policy that the vast majority of his newspaper colleagues in Washington view as unacceptable and unsustainable. Issues remain, but I think that all of us are working to see if we can reach a consensus solution without shutting down or limiting pool access.