A Pressing Matter

The new series I’ve found myself taken with is The West Wing. I know it came out almost two decades ago but it’s on Netflix now.

For those unaware, the show revolves around the inner machinations of the White House Senior Staff and the kooky shenanigans they get up to while assisting the POTUS. For the most part, the show follows the folks concerned with the integrity of the president’s public image: The Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Communications Director, Deputy Communications Director, and Press Secretary.

If you’ve seen The Newsroom then you’ll like The West Wing if you don’t find the similarities too off-putting. Strong writing paired with that style of self-aware intellectualism that Sorkin brings to the table.

Though the world in which the show was set has changed dramatically the institutions that the show represented still exist today. One such institution is the White House Press Corps: a group that has received significant attention in the most recent presidential administration.

The history behind the Press Corps begins with the allegory of Teddy Roosevelt who noticed some dedicated reporters outside the White House in the rain and decided to invite them inside. Though that probably wasn’t true the presence of media agencies within the White House has expanded significantly over the last century with the current number of correspondents reaching well into the 100s. Despite this large number, the White House press briefing room only contains forty-nine chairs: seven rows of seven. Each chair is assigned to a specific media organization by the White House Correspondent’s Association with the first two rows being given to those bodies with special significance. The current list of seated organizations, with first two rows in bold, is as follows:

  • NBC
  • FOX News
  • CBS News
  • Associated Press
  • ABC News
  • Reuters
  • CNN
  • Wall Street Journal
  • CBS Radio
  • Bloomberg
  • NPR
  • Washing Post
  • New York Times
  • USA Today
  • Agence France-Presse (AFP)
  • AP Radio
  • McClatchy
  • American Urban Radio Networks
  • Politico
  • Tribune (Proprietor of The Chicago Tribune)
  • ABC Radio
  • Foreign Pool
  • Washington Times
  • The Hill
  • FOX News Radio
  • Voice of America
  • National Journal
  • Bloomberg BNA
  • TIME
  • Sirius XM
  • Regionals
  • Christian Science Monitor
  • RealClearPolitics
  • Al Jazeera
  • Washington Examiner
  • Yahoo! News
  • Salem Radio Network
  • Newsmax
  • Daily Mail
  • Huffington Post
  • Westwood One
  • Univision
  • Dallas Morning News
  • Boston Globe
  • CBN
  • OAN
  • BuzzFeed/Daily Beast
  • Guardian

A long and somewhat surprising list, at least to me. Though prior to sitting down and looking through the membership, I’m confident I couldn’t have named 49 media organizations let alone consider them eligible for White House press credentials. I would’ve certainly expected a far more traditional media composition with papers leading the way and certainly not the likes of Sirius XM or Westwood One. It’s also my understanding that, from time to time, correspondents will “share” a seat between organizations of similar caliber like BuzzFeed and the Daily Beast. I’m not sure how they determine who actually sits in the seat or if the two groups literally share one correspondent (unlikely given Adrian Carrasquillo has been the Political Correspondent for BuzzFeed since 2014).

To summarize, I found it fascinating that the organization can be so dynamic. On The West Wing the Press Secretary calls out all sorts of unusual groups doing their reporting from within the pool which makes, at least that portion of, the show seem a great deal more reflective of reality.

Disclaimer: At time of writing the author has only seen most of Season One.

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