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.
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.