By Alan M. Milner
Executive Editor, Tellus News Digest
Most people don’t know this, but White House correspondents get to share offices and studios in the West Wing of the White House, something that has galled secretive presidents for generations. On the other hand, some presidents -and most notably Lyndon Baines Johnson – sometimes dropped in unexpectedly to chew the fat with whichever reporters happen to be around at the moment, which is something else most people simply don’t know about.
That may soon change, according to a copyrighted report in The New York Times by Michael M. Grynbaum. Reporters on the White House beat were disturbed by reports that they might be evicted from their offices in the West Wing. However, according to Esquire’s original report about the plan, the reporters won’t go far. Instead of having offices in the West Wing, their offices might be relocated to other nearby facilities in the White House Conference Center or the Old Executive Office Building, each of which is a three minute walk from the front door of the White House. Parking, however, is terrible in both locations.
Trump’s incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer, attempted to assuage the immediate outcry from reporters on the White House beat, saying that nothing has been decided yet. Off the record, however, senior members of Trump’s transition team have expressed the belief that the press is the enemy of the Trump administration and they want to evict the media from their present accommodations to express their displeasure with the coverage that Trump has been getting.
Officially, however, the rationale for the move is that the Trump administration wants to expand the White House Briefing Room, which is part of the media complex, and only has room for 49 seats. Such an expansion would require the relocation of the onsite press offices to, well, to an offsite location.
Behind this latest brouhaha with the media, there is another, more serious concern. Inside the envelope of presidential security, the correspondents on the White House beat are also inside that zone of safety. Traveling back and forth to other locations would put some of the most powerful reporters in the country exposed to the dissenting opinions and the people who hold those opinions.
Another concern is that Donald Trump may never actually hold press conferences at the White House. He is just as likely to hold forth in the conference rooms at Trump Tower, or at his palatial Palm Beach estate at Mar-a-Lago, where he could – and probably would – charge the members of the media for the space they would need to operate from.After all, Trump is already charging the Secret Services for the office and living space they are using at Trump Tower. There is no information about whether the Secret Service is getting a discount, but that isn’t very likely.