The New York Times wrote May 23 that many news organizations are cutting costs by not sending reporters with President Barack Obama on trips. The New York Times reported that the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Edwin Chen, said the only reason reporters aren’t going on as many trips is because of money.
But, is cutting presidential reporting the best way to save cash? The New York Times wrote that it is “limiting the number of news sources at a time when Americans are acutely interested in White House policies and personalities.”
The New York Times noted that Obama’s May 24-25 San Francisco trip had no charter for flying with President Obama. However, the president’s trip was still reported: see here, here and here. But, it means that more news organizations have to rely on fewer other news organizations’ POTUS facts and stories.
The New York Times reported that Mark Whitaker, the Washington bureau chief for NBC News, said, “We still cover the president as thoroughly and responsibly as we always have; we just have to look at the best way to do it, both logistically and financially.”
“There is growing concern within the press corps that the result of all these cutbacks is less reporting about the president, coming from fewer and fewer sources. In its place, probably not coincidentally, come more shouting heads, meaning that citizens still hear and see their president constantly — but with fewer facts attached.” The New York Times reported.
The New York Times reported that “the skimping on charters started in the tail end of the George W. Bush administration” and has gotten worse in the past three months.
If reporters don’t ride on the presidential charter, they can buy tickets commercially. But, if they do that, there’s no guarantee they will make it to their destinations on time. The New York Times reported that CBS Radio’s White House correspondent Mark Knoller said that not riding on the presidential charter is very inconvenient and time-costly, but not financially costly.
Perhaps it has something to do with the number of trips Obama has made?
CBS News reported Jan. 20 that Obama made 46 out-of-town trips in his first year, more than the previous two presidents. And, Obama made ten international trips his first year, more than any other president.
The New York Times reported that the correspondents’ association said the press spent about $18 million last year on presidential trips.
And when the president’s plans change, the press isn’t just affected story-wise.
The New York Times noted that when Obama canceled this spring’s trips to Indonesia and Australia, fees for canceling tickets were around $7,500 a seat.
UPDATE: 06/09/2010 9:41 AM EST: Jill Geisler, a group leader of the Poynter Institute, wrote in an e-mail to iMediaEthics that, “Having fewer eyes and ears observing and documenting the performance of government’s top leadership isn’t a healthy trend, for all the reasons articulated in the Times story. Let’s hope that the money saved on travel costs isn’t simply put to the corporate bottom lines, but at the very least redirected to investigative and contextual reporting about issues that underlie those trips.”