White House Beat Is No Place for Generalists

Ana Marie Cox asks an interesting question, via the WaPo op-ed page: If White House correspondents have such a glamorous, desirable reporting beat, why is it that no major story has come out of a White House presser?

Name a major political story broken by a White House correspondent. A thorough debunking of the Bush case for Iraqi WMD? McClatchy Newspapers’ State Department and national security correspondents. Bush’s abuse of signing statements? The Boston Globe’s legal affairs correspondent. Even Watergate came off The Washington Post’s Metro desk.

Here are some stories that reporters working the White House beat have produced in the past few months: Pocket squares are back! The president is popular in Europe. Vegetable garden! Joe Biden occasionally says things he probably regrets. Puppy!

It’s not that the reporters covering the president are bad at their jobs. Most are experienced journalists at the top of their game — and they’re wasted at the White House, where scoops are doled out, not uncovered. The day of a typical White House correspondent consists, literally, of waiting to be told things. Legitimate security concerns and a tightly scripted political world keep the presidential press corps physically corralled and informationally hostage.

Of course, someone has to keep an eye on the presidency. What’s wrong with the White House beat is that it’s considered prestigious, as though the address the reporters work at makes their work special. I say this as someone who goes to the White House regularly and gets a thrill out of it.

But putting a horde of reporters on the site where the big decisions about the country’s future are made is no guarantee of enhanced coverage. Instead of heaping more telegenic reporters into a single White House beat, break up the work among the corps of plugged-in journalists. When the president speaks out on AIG, let financial and labor reporters truth-squad him; when North Korea launches a missile, let defense and Asia specialists assess the White House reaction. Let the beleaguered journalism business prove its worth by providing something you can’t get by watching the White House’s YouTube channel.

2 Responses to “White House Beat Is No Place for Generalists”

  1. LongRodd12" says:

    For years we’ve been subjected to alleged Bush gaffe’s and insinuations that he’s stupid or not a good speaker. For those of you on the Left, c’mon just admit it and be honest … this Robert Gibbs guys is an embarrassment … all that you accuse Bush of we have now with Gibbs …

  2. Booogie-Mann says:

    The big story is that Gibb’s is a huge dufus … and the press won’t cover it. LongRodd12″ is right. ever listen to this guy answer questions … Geez … embarrassing .. bring out the big cane !!

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