NEW YORK -- The White House Correspondents' Association is seeking more “meaningful and consistent” access to the president, among other demands to increase day-to-day transparency, according to a draft of proposed principles and practices the organization is hammering out.
Christi Parsons, a Los Angeles Times White House reporter and president of the WHCA, along with members of the organization's board, distributed the draft document in a Wednesday email to members. The document is a response to a number of issues reporters have complained about in recent years, from a lack of opportunities to question the president to the White House appearing to bypass the press corps through social media.
Parsons and the board wrote in the email that "it’s time for us to band together” on core practices the group hopes will be followed by the Obama White House and future administrations. Once the document is agreed upon internally, it will be sent to the White House for consideration.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest declined to comment on the WHCA's proposed demands, but said in a statement to The Huffington Post that "every White House comes into conflict with the press corps that covers them but the kind of access that this press corps has gotten to the President over the last couple of weeks is indicative of our solid working relationship."
"In fact, in spite of our occasional differences, relations between WHCA and the Obama White House are as strong and constructive as they’ve ever been," Earnest continued. "I would attribute the effective relationship to three things: WHCA’s persistent advocacy, the priority this White House places on transparency and the ongoing commitment of the two parties to capitalize on common ground when it appears.”
The WHCA board distributed its working draft just days before the White House Correspondents' Dinner, the group’s annual glitzy affair, which will be held on Saturday. The dinner has been criticized in the past for its increasing focus on celebrity attendees and extravagant parties, as well as for what some see as an overly cozy relationship between Washington journalists and the public officials they are expected to hold accountable.
Patrick Gavin, who previously covered the festivities for Politico, took aim at the annual gala in a critical new documentary, “Nerd Prom,” which has attracted more scrutiny of the dinner and of the organization’s finances.
The WHCA board offered a more positive spin on Saturday night’s dinner in the email to members, describing the event as an opportunity for the White House press corps to “commit ourselves publicly to the common goals that bind us together: Openness, transparency, press freedom.”
Some of the practices that the draft document urges the president to adopt include holding a full press conference at least once a month and regularly taking questions from the rotating pool of reporters who follow the president on behalf of the entire press corps. Such changes would represent a marked increase in interaction between the press corps and the president.
The document also suggests that the smaller White House briefings tied to specific issues or policy proposals should generally be held on the record rather than on background, a process in which administration participants are identified as, say, “senior officials” instead of by name.
In addition, the draft calls on the White House not to “exercise any editorial role or delay dissemination” over pool reports written by individual reporters for the full press corps. The Obama White House, on a few occasions, has demanded changes to the reports or delayed their distribution.
White House reporters have been rankled in recent years by the Obama administration’s savvy use of social media to make announcements. The draft urges that White House “social media accounts should not be used to circumvent the press corps.”
“Our end goal is a statement we all support -– a shared vision of an open and transparent White House,” the board wrote in the email accompanying the documents. “If we all stand behind it together, it can be a very powerful document, not just for this White House, but for administrations to come.”
Read the WHCA document below: