Don’t jump in the pool

DON’T JUMP IN THE POOL…. It’s impractical for every major media outlets to have a staffer trailing the president at all times, so pool reports were invented. They’re quick and informal accounts written by White House correspondents for other media professionals. While they’re important to journalists and widely read, in general, news consumers (i.e., the public) never see them.

The Obama White House apparently hoped to change this, and set aside part of the White House website to publish pool reports. Alas, that’s not going to happen — reporters won’t let them.

Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press, the president of the WHCA, said everyone is in agreement that “pool reports are the media’s product, not the White House’s, and can’t be a regular part of their Web site.”

“The White House has told me that is their view, too, and it was never their intention to post pool reports on a permanent basis,” Loven said.

Why does it matter if pool reports are made public? In short, because covering the president around-the-clock is expensive — and pool reports belong to the news organizations funding the coverage. News organizations also want to be able to control the integrity and the use of their products. That is especially true on domestic and foreign trips, the costs of which are determined by how many reporters travel because they split the cost. If all news organizations could simply look up the pool reports online instead of paying to travel with the president, it could create a disincentive for some news outlets to actually go, thus raising costs for those organizations providing the news.

That’s a fairly reasonable explanation, but how about running the pool reports a day or two later?

Either way, it’s an unusual dynamic — the White House is so committed to transparency, news professionals believe the president’s team is going too far.