WHCA Candidates (Most of Them) Talk About Pool Report-Gate

We reached out to the candidates running for seats on the White House Correspondents’ Association board and asked for their take on the recent debate over the new White House pool report policy.

Their takes after the jump…

Have not heard from C-SPAN’s Steve Scully or the NYT’s Doug Mills.

Stephanie Smith

I agree with Mark Silva and others who have spoken up about the honored principle of providing information to all and not penalizing those who can’t afford to travel, but we need to address the fact that the burden of coverage is falling on just a few.

This decision was rather abrupt, no doubt, but Ann assures me this has been a three year-debate among board members and I know her intentions are honorable. Upholding your pool obligations is no less important then your obligation to provide all of our readers and viewers news and information from the White House. Yes, we are all suffering from budget cutbacks and covering a newsless president who is touring the globe in his last few months. But we have to find some sort of compromise. I’m not sure what that is — off the top of my head — perhaps those organizations that cannot travel pay a portion of the cost of those who do? Just a thought…

Let me illustrate my point about the need for debate: For those of you not involved in the bidding for the press charter for the G8, the TV folks finally said “enough” when the best offer we had for a plane was $25k. Thanks to CNN’s Tim McCaughan who said his people would fly commercially, it stirred up a debate that eventually brought the charter down by $10k. My point? An intelligent debate such as this will bring about needed change and I’m certain we will work out an amicable solution that will benefit us all.

These are all symptoms of our current financial crisis. Whether I’m elected or not, I will continue to work with all members to find further ways to cut excessive coverage costs so that debates like this will be moot.

Jon Ward (Washington Times):

I became aware of the debate last week as complaints were raised. I was and remain sympathetic to the financial cost and work load being carried by the Post, NYT and Journal.

At the same time, my paper is in the position that we would be hurt by the new policy. We are trying to achieve profitability, and while we’ve traveled more than some this year, my bosses have decided not to send me on the last two trips or the upcoming G8 trip. I wish it were different.

So my conclusion is that we need to find a solution, but that we need input from as many people as possible. I think a decision should not have been made prior to consulting with all members of the WHCA, and have shared this with all of you only after sharing it with the board and being encouraged by the current president to communicate publicly about that.

I think one proposal, as bureaucratic as it sounds, would be to have a committee of WHCA members specifically assigned to clearly define the problem, seek proposals, make recommendations and then allow members to vote on it. I don’t see any other orderly way to resolve this.

David Jackson (USA Today):

I oppose the policy and will work to rescind it. I understand the criticism of what has happened to the travel pool system, but I don’t think this is the answer.