WHCA issues “Statement of Practice and Principles”

April, 22nd 2015 Blog

This morning, the White House Correspondents’ Association, which throws the annual dinner each spring, released two documents (still in draft form): A “Statement of Practice and Principles” and “Practices and Principles of Coverage Access for Independent White House Press.”

They are serious and powerful documents and serve as a fairly definitive statement of what White House correspondents view as appropriate and necessary access for reporters on the beat. I’ve pasted them both below, with permission of this year’s WHCA president, Christi Parsons.


Statement of Practice and Principles: Affirming the Right to Gather News at the White House

As members of the White House press corps, we believe we have a duty to protect vigorously

the public’s right to know about the work of their elected and appointed officials, particularly

the activities of the Office of the President of the United States.


We believe that the public’s right to know depends on the broadest possible access by the press

to cover the full range of activities that the President undertakes in performing the public’s



We believe that limitations on the press to fully report on the President’s activities as he or she

conducts the public’s business undermine public trust in government.


We therefore embrace our responsibility to demand meaningful and consistent access to the

President of the United States whenever and wherever he or she conducts the public’s



The free press must be able to see, hear, witness and question the President in person on a

routine basis.


To that end, we have defined this set of Principles and Practices to guide journalists and the

White House alike in fulfilling their obligation to inform.


We do this on behalf of all those guided and governed by the First Amendment.


We hereby devote ourselves to these Principles, and we present the following Practices as a

means of putting them into action.


Some of these rules describe current practice. Some describe practices as we believe they

should be.


The final draft of this document should note which rules are common practice and which are

not. But this document constitutes our description of the open and transparent White House

as we envision it and therefore isn’t subject to negotiation outside the press corps.


As we commit ourselves to the letter and spirit of these Principles and Practices, we urge the

current administration, future administrations and all serious Presidential campaigns to do the



We invite and welcome a discussion about this with the White House.


The Members of the White House Press Corps


Practices and Principles of Coverage Access for Independent White House Press


Basic Practices:


The President takes questions from the press on a regular basis, no less than once per week,

and is available in response to significant news developments.


The President holds full press conferences at least once a month and takes questions frequently

from the pool.


The President allows the pool to witness and record him or her at work on a regular basis.


The press corps or its designated pool sees the President frequently on working days, and sees

the President on weekends and holidays whenever there are movements by the protective



When the President leaves his or her domicile, he or she is always accompanied by a protective

pool that visually witnesses, at the least, arrivals and departures from any place of entrance or

exit that is in view of the public, and covers the President in the act of doing the public’s



Pool “sprays,” in addition to offering visual journalists the chance to record the President at

work, are a time for reporters to ask the President questions about the events of the day.


Briefings are on the record, as a general practice. Background briefings, in which speakers are

not identified, are reserved for subjects of special sensitivity.


Embargoes are used to give reporters time to digest complicated or dense material in advance

of its public release. Their use should be limited.


The pool moves as a full group (as laid out in section two) with members representing each

sector of the media. When in rare circumstances the White House makes the President

available to a partial pool (in a stills-only or photojournalists-only event, for example) the rest of

the pool gets access to see, hear and question the President in close succession.


The President takes questions from the full traveling press corps frequently during foreign trips.


Foreign leaders who meet with the President take questions in a side-by-side news availability

or press conference. In settings where a foreign leader refuses to take questions from the press

corps, the President takes questions independently.


In dealing with host governments during foreign travel, the White House works to admit the full

pool to all significant events. When the U.S. is the host government, American officials work to

achieve the same level of openness and press access that are expected when the American

delegation is the guest.


Minimum Standards for the Constitution of the Press Pool:


*Open Press, with full and free access by all media requesting it, should be the default.

*When it is necessary to pool the media representation in a news event, the press corps urges

the White House and all serious Presidential campaigns to admit the largest pool possible.

*The White House Press Pools are formed to represent the wider press corps in settings where

the full press corps cannot be reasonably accommodated. The pool is assembled to reflect the

broad array of media through which the American people consume their news.

*The pools are assembled by the press corps. Every hard-pass holder is eligible to apply for

membership in one or more pools, and to be admitted must meet the criteria of the individual

pool administrators. (The TV pool sets its criteria and admits members, as do the Radio and

Print pools. The Wires do not pool.)

*The In-town Travel Pool consists of no fewer than 13 members (Three wire writers, four still

photographers, one independent still photographer, one print pooler, one radio pooler, three

network crew members)

*The Air Force One Traveling Pool consists of no fewer than 13 members (three wire writers,

four still photographers, one print pooler, one radio pooler, one WHCA print pooler and three

network crew members). Digital, multimedia and foreign press are eligible to participate

through the supplemental pool rotation to fill open seats.

*The In-House Pool, for events on the WH complex, consists of no fewer than 21 members (In-

town Travel Pool plus 3 for AP TV or CSPAN, foreign pooler, Dow Jones and AFP wires, 2 extra

camera crew for the network pool).


Specific Accommodations:


Air Force One: Whenever the President travels on Air Force One, there is a full Traveling Press

Pool traveling with him or her.

Bill Signings are open to the pool.

Briefing Room: All Presidential appearances in the briefing room are open press.

Briefing Room Feed: Presidential remarks at open press events are fed live to the briefing room.

Presidential remarks at pooled press events are fed live to the briefing room or replayed as

soon as possible, except under exceptional circumstances. Gaggles on Air Force One are fed live

to the briefing room, when technology allows, and are replayed when requested.

Camp David and/or personal Presidential Retreats: The White House discloses where the

President is at all times and what she/he is doing, including the appointments she/he is

keeping, calls she or he is making and other public business. The leisure rules (see below) apply.

Campaign events: Any campaign event at which the President appears, while seeking reelection

or on behalf of another candidate or committee, is open press and the full pool is always there.

A transcript of the President’s comments are made available to the press in a timely manner.

Celebrations on the South Lawn: Pool covers celebrations with entertainment (such as Cinco de

Mayo, Independence Day, the annual congressional picnic, etc. )

Church or House of Worship: When the President attends a religious service, the 13 members

of the in-town travel pool have a photo spray on arrival or departure from the service. The four

print reporters, the radio reporter, and the TV producer sit in on the service, but only if the full

pool cannot be accommodated. The service may or may not be recorded for broadcast, at the

host’s discretion.

East Room and South Lawn events: are open press events, with an exception for space

restrictions at events like “In Performance.” In case of exception, full pool is admitted.

Embargoes: Information that has been previously made public by the White House or other

agencies is not subject to embargoes. Embargoes are not to be used to prohibit news

organizations from publishing information they acquire through independent channels in

advance of a public release from the White House.

Evacuations of the White House and other emergencies: As in the critical coverage of the

events of 9/11, the White House keeps a pool (only as restricted as is absolutely necessary, and

including at least one representative of each media platform) in close proximity to the

President at all times. When the White House goes on lockdown and/or the President is moved

to a secure portion of the White House or off-campus facility, the White House takes care to

keep a tight pool in close proximity and fully informs the press corps as expeditiously as


Foreign leader meeting: Every meeting with a foreign leader (including heads of state,

government and other prominent leaders) is preceded or followed by a pool spray.

Foreign travel: The WH and Press Advance teams work to secure the same levels of access

abroad as those observed domestically.

Fundraisers: The pool covers the President’s remarks. The White House does not consent to

participate in super PAC fundraisers where the super PAC is unwilling to agree to basic

transparency and coverage of formal remarks.

Interviews: The press office notifies the press corps of when the President is taping or

participating in live television, radio or online interviews, or otherwise releasing new

information on social media, and, where possible, releases a transcript. Anytime an

announcement or speech or statement is released via Twitter or Facebook or the like, it should

be simultaneously sent out, or at least pointed out, via email to the customary White House

press lists.

Kennedy Center Honors and Christmas in Washington: Open Press coverage of guest arrivals

and presentation. Pool covers entire event, including remarks and performances.

Large Rooms, like the State Dining Room: in-house pools are accommodated, with additions

invited as often as possible.

Large group meetings with the President: The White House default is on the side of press access

to events that involve large numbers of attendees (breakout sessions and summits, for

example) and at the least notifies the members of the press corps that they are taking place

and provides basic information about the sum and substance.

Leisure: The WH discloses when the President is engaging in a leisure activity outside the

residence (golf, for example) and releases the names of those accompanying him or her on

these trips, either in advance or as the events happen. The WH allows some reasonable amount

of video and still photo access and coverage, which should never be less than the access and

perspectives given to any unilateral photographers or public onlookers at the site. The full pool

accompanies the President on these outings. In cases where leisure events include a politician,

prominent official or head of state, a pool spray is allowed at minimum.

Livestreams: Any POTUS event that is livestreamed or otherwise disseminated

contemporaneously by the White House is open to coverage by the pool. Livestreams and other

White House broadcasts are not a substitute for in-person coverage of an event.

Marine One: Marine One arrivals and departures at the White House are always open press.

During late night and early morning hours when the briefing room is closed, Marine One

arrivals and departures are always open to the full pool. Marine One arrivals and departures at

locations away from the White House are covered, at minimum, by the traveling pool.

Medical Information: As with all off-campus visits, the pool accompanies the President on

medical visits. The White House releases timely information about the President’s health,

including any medical procedures or tests, erring on the side of speedy disclosure in the interest

of making sure the public knows the state of the President’s health and capacity at all times.

Motorcade: The lead Press Van is no more than 10 vehicles behind the President’s vehicle in the


Newsmaker meetings: There is pool coverage of arrivals with heads of state, congressional

leaders and bill signings, or any other event at which the White House plans to release a

contemporaneous photo.

Off-campus events: When the President leaves the White House or off-campus site for a

private event, the White House discloses what he/she is doing even if the pool is not admitted.

On-the-record briefings: For briefings that are conducted on background, the White House

provides an explanation for why briefers should not be identified. Briefers should always be

identified at least to the participants in a call so they know who is speaking even if they cannot

name them in their reports. Conducting briefings on ‘deep background’ is discouraged in almost

all circumstances.

Photo pool sprays: The President takes questions from the press several times a week during

pool sprays with the full pool. Pool sprays are open to the full pool and are a time for reporters

to observe the President in person and ask him or her questions.

Presidential movements: When the President leaves the White House grounds by car or on

foot, there is a full pool walking with him/her or in the main package of the motorcade.

Print Pool Reports: Print pool reports are the responsibility of the pooler, and the White House

shall not exercise any editorial role or delay dissemination. Staffers may point out factual

inaccuracy, but the decision on any changes rests with the independent print pooler. The print

pool and the WHCA board take responsibility for sending corrections and clarifications.

Public Schedule: The White House releases a daily public schedule for the President that notes

meetings in which he or she is doing the public’s business.

Rose Garden events: are always open for press coverage.

Secret pools for trips to danger zones: The White House runs the regular rotations to select the

members of these pools. Pool participants agree to scrupulously keep the formation of the

pool, the trip and its details off the record, and all information very closely held, until the White

House releases it on the record.

Stakeouts: Visitors to the WH complex always have the option to make an open press

appearance at the stakeout location.

State Dinners: Pool covers – at the very least — toasts, arrivals and entertainment. The WH

opens these events up to an expanded pool upon request.

Transcripts and/or audio of gaggles: The offices of the President, vice President and first spouse

release all official transcripts they generate to the press corps as soon as they are available.

Travel Planning: The WH provides off-the-record guidance for planning purposes well in

advance of all Presidential trips.

Twitter and social media: WH social media accounts should not be used to circumvent the press


Vacations: are covered by the press corps and pools. On-camera briefings are conducted on a

periodic basis, by call of the White House or request of the news media.

Vice President: the vice President abides by the same level of transparency as these principles

outline for the White House in general.

Visitor Logs: The White House provides records of White House visitors on an ongoing basis, in

keeping with its voluntary disclosure policy.


Special practices for Fundraisers:


The print pool covers – at the very least — the President’s formal remarks. The White House

facilitates the flow of information including, but not limited to, the name of the host, the

number of people in attendance and the ticket price (suggested contribution, range of

contributions or minimum amount). Where the group is especially exclusive (i.e. fewer than

twenty people) a list of attendees is also provided.

When the President appears at Super PAC events, the White House discloses or directs the

sponsor to disclose to the pool the same information (or comparable information) as is supplied

at other fundraisers.

The information comes in as a timely fashion, at minimum by the morning of the event.

The pool covers, at minimum, the President’s opening remarks at the event.

The White House provides a readout of the portions of the event that the pool does not