As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

The White House Press Corps poll

Politico recently published its poll of White House reporters. It’s not scientific – not every White House reporter responded.

Anyway, here are the fun facts.

The average White House reporter is 48 years old, has been on the White House beat for 12 years, and has been a journalist for about 20-30 years.

Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 11.21.57 AMWhite House reporters don’t consider the briefings particularly useful, but most of them go at least once a week. Half say they go just about every day.

Two thirds file stories multiple times a day, and more than half say this is more often than five years ago.

More than half have never had an exclusive interview with President Obama, and 50 percent don’t think he knows their name. Asked how often they had an interview in the past week with someone outside the press office, 53 percent said they hadn’t.

Thirty nine percent say they have been sworn at by a White House official. Fifty percent say they’ve been lied to.

Given a choice between the Obama and Bush White Houses, 41 percent said Bush’s was more forthcoming with information, while only 5 percent said Obama’s and just 13 percent said it was about the same. Forty two percent agree with a statement by a New York Times editor who said the Obama White House is the most secretive they’ve covered.

And, in a self-congratulatory mood, 68 percent said Obama gets the coverage he deserves, while only a quarter said he gets better than he deserves.

I participated in the survey. Here is a link to the survey and my answers to all the questions, including those reporters were permitted to answer without attribution.

Below are my answers to questions that required some explaining. These also happened to be the on-the-record questions.

What most people don’t know about covering the White House is . . . 

Even though you are physically within the White House, you are not that much more privy to inside information than someone in Oregon.

The best way to get information out of this White House is… By speaking with the people they talk to on Capitol Hill and in various organizations who may be disloyal and reveal good stuff. White House officials are never disloyal to the president and will only give you good information if it serves the president’s purposes.

If I could get the Obama White House to change one thing, it would be. . . 

Stop beating up on reporters for writing perfectly legitimate stories that happen to reflect negatively on Obama. Not only does this chill freedom of the press and free speech by trying to get inside reporters’ heads, but it decreases the credibility of the White House because the practice is essentially dishonest. That is, the anger is partially or wholly manufactured and the claim of unfairness in a story is often knowingly false.

When President Obama calls this the “most transparent administration in history,” my reaction is . . . 

The history of which country?

The best White House press secretary I’ve worked with is . . . because . . . 

It depends on what you mean by “best White House press secretary.” Best for the White House or best for the press?

The best press secretary for the White House I’ve worked with was Mike McCurry. He understood reporters, knew how to feed them information they wanted and get them hooked on the practice, charmed them, ran entertaining briefings even while giving out little serious information, and gave the impression of irony – something reporters lap up – while actually working tirelessly for the boss and hitting reporters hard when he needed to.

With respect to the press, Dana Perino was the best press secretary. Dana actually respected reporters and tried to give them straight answers – to the extent the job allows – and useful information, both in the briefing room and behind the scenes. She gave fast, concise responses during the briefing so that more reporters got a chance and the thing didn’t drag on endlessly. There was access to senior officials. This is not to say she wasn’t completely loyal to Bush and down with his program, just that she took reporters seriously.

One hundred years from now, White House reporters will . . . 

be able to work while asleep.

Not that I’d mind working while asleep. Because, truly, I enjoy it.

It’s a great privilege, and so I believe it comes with great obligations. That’s one reason I started a website devoted to holding the White House accountable.

There are some good reporters at the White House, but I wish more took the job of accountability seriously. I’m sure that once a Republican gets in, more will.

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38 Responses to The White House Press Corps poll

  1. How sad. A supposed prestigious job inside the WhiteHouse, the base of power of the US and no one knows your name, they feed you lies if they tell you anything at all, and yet you think you’re doing a good job reporting the facts.

    It’s long past time for the press corps to find their own building, away from the heady atmosphere of the WhiteHouse. The intimacy of being “in house” leads to a bias favorable to their host, while distance, physical distance, would remove the threat of harrassment, of chummy or self-serving relationships, but still allow for the gathering of the news.
    We are, after all, in the digital, skype-ing, texting age of communications. The WH press secretary should go to the Press, not the other way around.

    • I think the Obama people would like to get rid of the pressers all together. The WH seems to have too much control of the media and getting out their talking points. You can see how Jay becomes unglued with a tough question from Fox, and most recently ABC.

  2. The best way to get information out of this White House is… By speaking with the people they talk to on Capitol Hill and in various organizations who may be disloyal and reveal good stuff

    Yes–by reporting the story, not taking down the party line, must less making up a better party line and printing that. This used to be called reporting. I fear we barely have a press any more. I used to be part of it–and I can’t tell you how skeptical people were toward the press–they were surprised to be called–“we thought you got info from other publications.” I guess they still have J-schools, but what do they teach?

  3. “There are some good reporters at the White House, but I wish more took the job of accountability seriously.”

    The reporters reflect the federal government in general. How many at the top take their job seriously – other than keeping it or getting reelected.

    Keith: Thanks for the birds eye view!

    • –“WH press corps” = just a bunch of shallow, biased sycophants who want to keep their DC-White House-Congress/NYC party invites so they can suck-up to those in power in DC/Congress/NYC…

  4. Dana Perino never really filibustered an answer like Carney does.
    Watching her on the Five, she appears to be somewhat of a RINO, but then, so was Bush.The short, to the point answers she provided while press secretary compared to what we have now was refreshing.
    Plus, IMO, she’s easy on the eyes.

  5. Tony Snow and Dana Perino were the last people I actually watched the pressers for. Compared to Jay, Baghdad Bob was more informative and polite to the press.

    Thanks Keith for the inside peek of your crazy world :D

  6. “…the most transparent administration in history…”
    Your response MrKoffler, ” the history of which country “? is superb.
    May I suggest North Korea?

  7. LOL! Your last sentence says it all, Keith!

    Any comments on Scott McClellan? That Memoir was pretty awful (if you are George Bush).

  8. My respect for this “WH press corps”, especially from the ‘MSM’ under this Obama Regime… is about equal to to a Porta-Potty.

    -no offense Mr. Koffler. I just so PISSED because WE Readers of WhiteHouseDossier can ask 100+ better questions any day than anyone (media professionals?) in this sycophant “WH press corps” can ever ask…

      • It should be required prep work before the briefings for the WHPC to read your blog and the comments !

        I think we’re more aware of what’s going on in the world than the President, so it seems :)

        #PTF

      • I suggested the other day on another Thread, that here in America we should have regular citizens picked at random to sit in that room to ask questions.
        I think it would work well, that way we would not be afraid of loosing our jobs and ask the hard core questions.
        However there is the fear as AFVet mentioned of being put in jail.
        That is one of the biggest problems for the citizens here. We all have that gut feeling of wanted AFVet mentioned. So that should spell it out clear the road our Country is on. That of course with the LONG LIST of scandels etc.

        • Before we were escorted we would be able to handle the smart alec attitude.
          I would love to say shut up! (Excuse that rude statement) but it would be needed to stop Carney from talking in circles. Going on and on and on and on and on. Doing everything but answer the question.

  9. Terrific insight. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when the WH reporters get together at the local pub–and after a couple of beers. Even though they are competitors, I’d like to think they share war stories about dealing with the WH. And about the stories they dare not report. ;+}

    • “stories they dare not report”…
      Like “Pres.” Obama’s REAL ‘Daily Schedule’? = Why does Obama do nothing before 10:00 AM EST…???

      • I’ve noted before that my very strong suspicion is that Obama fills all those “empty” hours meeting with people he does not want us to know he is meeting with. Or else he is working off a hangover. Or both.

  10. Excellent responses, Keith, especially “the history of which country?” Thanks for the glimpse into your world.

  11. Keith, I respect you because you tell it like it is but don’t envy you one bit and wouldn’t have your job for all the money in the world.

    Time to say thanks to you for all the information you provide to us that we find no where else. Without your exposure to what is really going on, we readers would have no idea what really goes on. Thanks for enlightening us.

  12. fair and balanced as ever! A right-winger liking Dana Perino the best and answering “in what country” when the president makes a statement about transparency. Perhaps you failed to notice that Cheney gave the finger to the WH press corps when they asked him who attended his energy policy “summit.” He made sure from day one the degree of the Bush administration’s transparency to the press corps.

    Sorry about him not knowing your names — I’m sure the others knew all of your names and bush remedied this issue by giving you guys condescending nicknames, which you probably thought were endearing, but rich people really don’t learn real names — beneath them — but you all never noticed that! Then when you all found out about Scott McClellan and how he was forced to lie, you insulted him Instead of admiring his courage, you ignored him. So typical with “fair and balanced” cons.

    Too busy dwelling on Obama’s “scandals” rather than focusing on Congress’ scandal of wasting my money. The librual media should investigate Issa’s investigation and the depths he goes to distort the truth. Oh, wait, they did but nobody cared and Issa went back to repeating the same lies despite his lies being proven as such. What a country!