White House picks nits with pool reporters’ dispatches

Everybody’s an editor.

Even the White House, as a Washington Post story buried in the Style section recounts.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest speaks to the media during his daily briefing. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When the president travels, but not while golfing, a small pool of reporters are allowed to tag along so long as they agree to share their reports with all the other media. The system has evolved to the point where the White House has created a database of media and does the distributing.

That’s where the editing comes in. WaPo says the White House has demanded deletions or alternations in pool reporting as a condition of distribution.

On one trip, then-deputy press secretary Josh Earnest (Is that name an oxymoron?) demanded that a Post reporter change his story, which “contained a comment juxtaposing a speech Obama had given two days earlier lauding freedom of the press with the administration’s decision to limit access to presidential photo ops on the trip.”

The reporter argued but agreed.

Free press? Owned press? Are we getting news accounts or press releases?

Here is another example:

As the pool reporter on a presidential trip to California in mid-2012, Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News included a colorful scene in his pool file: Obama walking back to the press section of Air Force One bearing a dessert with a lighted candle to honor a veteran reporter who was making her final presidential trip. Gillman added the seemingly innocuous detail that Obama asked the honoree to blow out the candle and make a wish, “preferably one that had something to do with the number 270,” the minimum number of electoral college votes the president needed to win reelection.

The White House refused to dispatch the report. Only after the reporter appealed the decision to the press secretary was it sent, a day later. Old news is no news.

The White House Correspondents Association is considering finding another to send out pool reports that skirt the White House system.

William Allen White, the Kansas newspaper editor in the early 20th century, once said, “There are three things that no one can do to the entire satisfaction of anyone else: make love, poke the fire, and run a newspaper.”


4 comments on “White House picks nits with pool reporters’ dispatches

  1. Nyp says:

    Perhaps the White House Press Office can also correct typos in headlines.

  2. Thanks for the catch, Petey.

  3. Winston Smith says:

    May the ghost of Helen Thomas haunt them all…

  4. Athos says:

    Sam Donaldson could be Helen’s complement!

    I thought Jay Carney was insufferable. “Lies like a 2-bit hoe!” But this new guy must be on some serious oxycontin kick to spin Pinocchio’s stories day after day!

    I don’t think he’ll make it.

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