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Is Bush Worth the Trip?

How do you know the President is a lame duck? When the White House press corps can’t find enough people willing to watch what he’s doing.

Stretched by a long campaign season and feeling that President Bush isn’t making much news, many media organizations have cut back on staff they send aboard Air Force One.

The trips aren’t cheap—one Russia trip ran $23,000 a reporter—and they’re not proving newsworthy. One TV correspondent who covered the President’s latest trip to Europe says, “Nothing came out of that.”

The lack of interest means that the same shrinking number of outlets is pulling pool duties, in which a few reporters follow the President to events too small or private for the whole press corps and report back about what happened. The organizations paying to follow POTUS aren’t happy sharing their reporting with those not paying. So the White House Correspondents’ Association announced this summer that it was restricting pool reports to those reporters who actually go along on the trip.

The new policy caused a ruckus amid those out of the loop. “Access cannot be limited to a few for a price,” the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Silva wrote in an e-mail. So WHCA president Ann Compton of ABC News is reviewing the change.

One thing’s for sure: Come January 20, 2009, there won’t be any shortage of reporters willing to pay to follow the President.

This article first appeared in the August 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles like it, click here

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