White House Press Briefing Room Redo

The shelves in the White House booths are looking barren, and the garbage is piled high as the press corps prepares to move out of its offices in the White House briefing room and into new -- allegedly temporary -- digs.

It will be the first time since 1902 that the press corps has not had an office inside the White House, and the lack of proximity has reporters worried.

Some are spinning conspiracy theories -- that the White House won't let the press corps back in.

"All they have to say is, 'Oh, the fire officials deem the place a fire hazard and there's not enough room for all of you," one reporter said. "Then they turn it into more White House offices."

"It would be terrible if we were ever moved out of this place permanently," veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas said. "When you are here, you can see many things that they don't want you to see. This is a very secretive administration, so you are lucky to catch the nuances."

In Wednesday morning's off-camera briefing, known as the gaggle, White House press secretary Tony Snow assured the press we would be back in this space just as soon as construction was complete.

"Yes!" he said with a laugh. "We think it's time to replace the heat and air conditioning, replace the carpet that's ratty, and get a state-of-the-art facility that's usable."

Snow added that he looked forward to getting the press back as soon as possible because he would have to make the daily walk to the new space, which could make for "bad hair days."

Still, it's hard to argue against a renovation.

The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room is cluttered, crowded and falling apart.

There are stains on the curtain behind Snow's podium. The carpets, once blue, are brown and green. Pieces of the wall are crumbling, and in one place, covered up with plastic wrap.

With all the gear, cables, and equipment running across the carpets, the place is at times treacherous to navigate.

And that's just the grunge we can see.

Steve Scully, C-SPAN anchor and president of the White House Correspondent's Association, took these notes from a meeting with the White House administration on the condition of the briefing room a year ago:

"With potential of asbestos in the ceilings, plumbing that dates back to the Nixon administration, wiring that is more than 30 years old, and a heating/AC system that cannot be repaired any more. … The briefing room is beyond repair. Some around here think this place is a potential firetrap, so it's not a question of are we going to do the renovation -- there is no question -- we HAVE to do it."

Since then, two booths on the basement level of the briefing room have flooded and a piece of ceiling has fallen on one TV producer.

ABC's Ann Compton, who has covered the White House since 1974 and is the president-elect of the White House Correspondent's Association, says it's time the room is updated for the modern technological age.

"This place was never designed to be a kind of functioning newsroom. … And it's been jury-rigged over a period of two generations," Compton said. "We're hard on a place. We carry big equipment. We are here for 24 hours. We eat at our desks. We drag stuff in the rain and the mud and the snow, so everything takes a beating."

History of White House Press Corps

As the press corps has grown, it has been pushed further away from the president -- literally.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...