There are few things that get the attention of Washington journalists more quickly than news about their position in The Establishment.
The number of seats your organization has at the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual celebrity-filled bash is hugely important. But even more critical to individual journalists is whether you’ve snagged an invite to one of the after-parties, particularly the prestigious Bloomberg/Vanity Fair soiree. Your blogger got himself invited to one of these a few years ago and found it crowded, stuffy (people and the room), noisy, and not fun.
Journalists, who pretend to be anti-establishment, have there own well-established fraternity, with an clearly defined pecking order. So White House reporters waited with unbridled anticipation as the WHCA prepared the new White House briefing room seating chart, which is out today.
The big controversy, laden with political heat, was whether the conservative Fox News Network would get a coveted front row seat, now that Helen Thomas suddenly went NAZI and vacated hers.
Of course, some liberals wanted Fox to stay where it was in the second row and promoted the other option, moving Bloomberg or National Public Radio into the front. But there really never was any choice. Fox is the nation’s most watched cable news outlet, and there’s no justification to have CNN in the front row, where it’s been, and not Fox.
Beyond that, Major Garrett, Fox’s chief interlocutor, is one of the tougher cross examiners in the briefing room, though he hogs the floor shamelessly. But I like him, so who cares? Fox was actually awarded a slightly better perch than CNN – front row and second from the left – while CNN is all the way on the right. The Associated Press moved into Helen’s actual seat in the center, which is certainly where they think they should be.
I might mention that as a practical matter it makes absolutely no difference if you are in the front row or the second row. You will get called on either way, whether by the president or Robert Gibbs. And Obama never does press conferences in the briefing room anyway.
What can happen, however, is that your NOSE CAN GET ALL OUT OF JOINT if you are not situated in the place you think you deserve. Presumably, Michael Bloomberg is contemplating purchasing a nuclear weapon from Kim Jong-Il and setting it off in the WHCA office in the Watergate.
Notable is that POLITICO and American Urban Radio Networks, a major black radio network, have edged forward into the third row. AURN is represented at the White House by April Ryan. I’ve worked with her for thirteen years in the White House basement, where she has her broadcast booth.
She and I both enjoy making our points, so we butt heads sometimes. But do we love each other.
Taking up space are news mags such as Time and Newsweek, whose correspondents never show up. U.S. News & World Report, in fact, got the boot.
And, in a sign that the blogs have not quite breached The Fraternity, none are included in the room. Neither are web-only outfits like the liberal Huffington Post or conservative Daily Caller.
Because only the Cool People get to eat at the Cool People’s Table.