The word is out today that CNN White House bureau chief Ed Henry will move one door down in the White House basement, taking over as chief White House correspondent for Fox News.
I’ve worked with Ed for years, and I will tell you, this is good news for Fox News. Ed is something many TV news reporters are not – he’s a real reporter.
Before moving over to CNN seven years ago, Ed was the gossip columnist for a newspaper I also later worked at – Roll Call, which mainly covers Capitol Hill.
Why, you might wonder, did CNN take a gossip columnist and eventually put him in charge of its White House beat?
First of all, the gossip columnist at Roll Call operated under normal journalistic standards – that is, he had to make sure his stories were true before they were published. Not the typical gossip columnist.
But like all good gossip columnists, Ed was a shoe leather reporter, developing sources, ferreting out stories from beneath people who didn’t want the stories reported, and writing and assembling piece after piece on a relentless deadline. These are skills many in TV world never really bother developing, or at least never get particularly good at.
Ed is also one of the tougher questioners in the briefing room. He is less likely than others in the room to ask “What does the president think” and forget to ask, “Why does the president think it?”
Once, I was walking up the White House driveway and I noticed a line of lawmakers’ cars waiting while their owners met with the president. It was probably about eight or nine years ago, while Ed was at Roll Call and I was covering the White House for a publication called CongressDaily.
It was a warm Washington day, and I noticed one of the cars, a large SUV belonging to Rep. Sherry Boehlert – a self-proclaimed “green” Republican from New York – was idling with the air conditioner on. Forty five minutes later I walked by again, and the motor was still churning with the windows closed, cooling the driver while keeping the car on ice for the Congressman.
The driver could easily have gone into the White House waiting area or just hung out outside like the reporters and cameramen who were milling around.
My publication was policy-focused and didn’t do such stories, so I called Ed and told him on background – it can now be revealed! – that Mr. Environmentalist was busy making his own contribution global warming.
He confirmed it with Boehlert’s presumably unhappy office and wrote it right up.