TIME magazine’s Michael Scherer, who’s on the WHCA board, spoke with the Columbia Journalism Review about the process his colleagues went through in filling Helen Thomas’ briefing room seat. Scherer says there was “little controversy in the weeks between the first board meeting on the matter and its second and final meeting,” but admits some aggressiveness sprouted when the process first began:
In one letter sent to the committee, Fox News VP Bill Sammon referred to a verbal agreement from 2007 he made with the WHCA. He wrote, in a letter obtained by Yahoo! News: “Now that Helen has retired, I’m hopeful the WHCA will make good on those assurances and approve Fox’s long-expected move to that seat…”
Noting that the other major networks had front row seats, Sammon described Fox as a “general interest news organization” and Bloomberg as a “financial niche news outlet.” Like a scorned Tracy Flick, Bloomberg hit back by writing, “We don’t believe the seat should be awarded on the basis of seniority, ideology, tradition… or discussions held years ago: it’s not something to be conferred.”
At today’s noon briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs mentioned that everyone had moved into their new assigned seats. Wendell Goler was in the new Fox News seat and got the sixth question. “Wendell, welcome to the front row,” said Gibbs.
“The seat is Fox’s, not mine or Wendell Goler’s or Mike Emanuel’s. Covering the White House is a huge job and a bigger responsibility,” FNC WH correspondent Major Garrett said yesterday. “Moving to the front row doesn’t change that — it only changes our vantage point toward the podium and our rotation in questioning (we’ll be called on earlier).”
FNC carried the start of the briefing live.
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Meanwhile, Bill O’Reilly joked last night that he might sneak down to Washington one day, kidnap Major Garrett, and show up in the front row at a press briefing…