tv History of Covering the White House CSPAN August 9, 2018 11:05am-12:08pm EDT
and build the wall with this difference. instead of building the wall on the border of texas and mexico, we will build the border on texas and new mexico so we can keep all the californians from coming to the state of texas. >> watch on c-span, c-span.org, and the free c-span radio app. sharehouse reporters their experiences in covering the presidency, from eisenhower to the present. john cochran, former nbc white house correspondent. and kristinons, walker, current white house news correspondent, participate in this event hosted by the association for education in journalism and mass communication. jennifer: so one of the things the president gets to do is invite people to come give a keynote address, and as i was
thinking about our locale, our lovely logo with the capital, all i had to do was turn on the news, look at the newspaper, open my twitter feed, and realize what our topic had to be. it had to be looking at the relationship between our chief executive and the white house press corps. and so, i am so honored to have -- instead of one guest, i decided to do a q&a panel with three outstanding white house press corps members, and i will bring them up one at a time. the format is going to be, we will have a conversation, and i will tell you, i think our friends at c-span, who were going to air this at 9:30 eastern tonight -- they are taking it right now, and that way it can be shared by so many people all over the country who were not able to be here today. so we will have the conversation, and then there will be some time for q&a with our panelists afterwards. i will introduce them and they will come up and then we will have our conversation.
my first guest is john cochran. john cochran is a three-time emmy award-winning network television correspondent. cochran has known every president from dwight eisenhower to barack obama, as you see in the title, "from eisenhower to trump." actually, john did not cover eisenhower in the white house. he was stationed in the white house under eisenhower and kennedy, doing transcriptions and speeches, and so has come to know them. in addition to covering the white house, he covered the iranian press hostage and many, many international stories. cochran worked for 21 years at nbc as a correspondent both in washington and overseas. he covered nixon, ford, carter, reagan, and the bush administrations. from 1978 to 1987, he was based in london and was the chief foreign correspondent for nbc. he returned to nbc's washington
bureau and became chief white house correspondent under the presidency of george h.w. bush. cochran joined abc news in 1994 as chief capitol hill correspondent covering bob dole's unsuccessful bid for the president, and was senior white house correspondent in the final two years of the clinton administration. from 2001 until 2011, he was the network's senior washington correspondent and he retired at that time. i have to give a "roll tide" shout out. john cochran is a graduate of the university of alabama and good friend of the university of alabama, so roll tide, john. john: roll tide. jennifer: ok. welcome, john. [applause] jennifer: my next guest is christi parsons. christi parsons is the senior editor at the atlantic and director of the talent lab, a position she has held since may. is that right? christi: yes. jennifer: at the talent lab, she is searching for the best and
brightest young journalists for the magazine and all of its platforms. if you have students that christi needs to know, come see christi. she covered the white house for the los angeles times for a decade and was a political writer at the chicago tribune. she has reported from 30 different countries, covered three presidential campaigns, and most notably for our conversation tonight, charted the rise of barack obama from the illinois statehouse to the u.s. senate to the white house, so she has the distinction of being a reporter who has covered barack obama longer than anybody else. and she will have some good stories to tell us, i know, tonight. she was president of the white house correspondents association and in that role and as a member of the board, she led the fight for press corps to have more access to information from the white house. she holds degrees from -- let's hear it, roll tide -- christi: roll tide. [laughter] jennifer: -- from the university of alabama and is a good friend. christi: she looked far and wide for panelists. jennifer: it's like, okay, let me look at my alumni database -- and yale law school.
and she is a devoted fan of 'bama journalism professors, she says. so welcome, christi. christi: thank you. [applause] jennifer: and last but not least, kristen welker. kristen welker is an nbc news white house correspondent whose hard-hitting political reporting appears across all nbc news platforms and msnbc platforms. she has appeared on nbc nightly news with lester holt and anchored the nightly news last night in new york. today, meet the press, nbcnews.com. she began covering the white house for nbc news in december 2011, traveling domestically and internationally with president obama, the first lady, and joe biden. prior to the white house, she was a network correspondent in burbank, california. she joined nbc news in 2010. during her first year at the network, she was nominated for a national emmy award for her role in the midterm election coverage. she was previously at nbc-owned
and operated stations in philadelphia, rhode island, and redding, california. she is really well known. she has kind of made a name for herself for her hard-hitting questions, dynamic questioning at the white house press briefing. and she was called by "glamour" magazine as a key player of the women of the election in 2016. i will tell you that kristin is a graduate of another school with crimson in it. [laughter] jennifer: we will say harvard. we have a harvard and yale dynamic up there on the stage, but we will play nice. she is a member of the national association of black journalists. welcome, kristen, thank you for being here. [applause] jennifer: ok, so to start our conversation -- is my mic on? we got? ge good?
i have asked each one of our panelists to talk about some of the challenges that they face in their era and what the relationship was between the president and the press. i will start with john. you covered many presidents in the white house. if you could just give your reflections on how that relationship has evolved during the time you were in the white house? john: well, i'm old. she mentioned eisenhower, so you know i am old. so i will just use some prepared notes here. you are familiar with the old axiom, i wish you to live in interesting times. well, i'm afraid we now live in a time that is too interesting. [laughter] john: this morning, my wife barbara and i were reading the washington post in bed. we still subscribe to real newspapers. the post and the new york times. [applause] john: that was easy applause. jennifer: yeah. [laughter]
john: so i saw a quote from a "washington post" reporter who covers national security things, and he gave a pretty accurate summation of what we have all lived through since january of last year. it is from greg miller. and even though he covers national security issues, especially russian hacking, it applies to other issues as well. here is the quote. "it is really bewildering. it is not just the story, which is the craziest and most complicated that any of us have ever seen, but the fact that while covering it, our institution, journalism, is under siege in a way that none of us ever expected." that is true. "but we would do well to remember that journalism has been under attack before." many of you remember that president nixon told his vice president, spiro agnew, to go out after the news media.
with exquisite it a should, -- exquisite allit literation, called us nattering nabobs of nepotism. nixon had an enemies list. many of the people on that list were journalists. i was not on the list, but i was covering the pentagon during part of the nixon administration before i moved to the white house, and i found out that my phone was tapped, my work phone was tapped. i found out by calling my bureau and telling them something that was not true and seeing if it came back to me, and it did. there are other examples, but nothing compares with the present day. in the past, we have never had a president accuse us in such harsh terms. the other night, he said we might be responsible for wars. he called us anti-american. in the past, news organizations never had to hire security personnel to protect white house
journalists at trump rallies. and never in the past have we had to figure out what to do with a president who tells falsehood after falsehood after falsehood. do we say he is lying, as the "new york times" did on a couple of occasions? after all, lying implies that he knowingly said something contrary to fact. i am still uneasy with using lying. i am sure we will be discussing all of this, but since i am the only one in the panel with gray hair, let's go back more than half a century to the eisenhower administration. at that time, the presidency was held in high regard. very few ever thought the president would intentionally lie. yes, i know that is tough utologist,st -- ta because if you lie it is
intentional. in the army, i was assigned to the white house to work for eisenhower's press secretary. i wore civilian clothes, i lived in a georgetown apartment, and it was a pretty nice duty. i recorded the president's remarks. it was just a little staff job, but it was like being a fly on the wall. you got to see a lot of stuff. i admired eisenhower, or ike, as he was then known. i never thought ike would lie. and then came the u2 affair. how many remember the u2 affair ? the u2 was a spy plane that for some years had been flying way up high over the soviet union and making reconnaissance pictures. eisenhower and his administration had denied that they were doing anything like this. but then ironically, on what was supposed to be the very last u2
flight, one of them was shot down. the pilot was captured, put on trial, and he confessed. ike had to admit that he had approved the spying. now, he was lying to protect national security. that is a far cry from what we are seeing today. even so, americans were shocked back in 1960. i was shocked and even a little bit depressed, but i realized i had been naive. welcome, young john, to the real world. it was a good lesson for a 21-year-old who hoped someday to be a journalist. in january of 1961, john kennedy came into the white house. and i soon got another lesson in white house deception. but this time, i was the one who was doing the lying. that got your attention, didn't it? [laughter] john: now, before i tell the
story, i have to ask, is there anyone here who is not familiar with the name frank sinatra? [laughter] john: ok. well, in the 1960 campaign, sinatra had campaigned for jfk, had sung a campaign song, and was pretty chummy with the kennedy family. but then, in 1961, more stories started coming out about sinatra being a bit too close to gangsters, members of the mafia, so kennedy did not want to advertise his friendship with "old blue eyes," as sinatra was known. but he did not want to just dump him either. kennedy liked to fly out to palm beach on weekends to stay at his father's estate. i always went on those trips. i had become friendly with the dean of the white house press corps.
merriman smith. many of you will remember smitty. on one of the trips to palm beach, smitty, being an excellent reporter, said he had heard rumors that sinatra was in town to see kennedy. he asked if i knew anything about it. i had only a split second to decide, was i going to lie to my friend or was i going to try to protect the president? i told smitty, news to me. i knew he was in town. the secret service knew it, too, and talked to me about it. in the years to come, i realized that when push comes to shove, white house aides overall usually side with the president. the occupant of the oval office, even if that means shading the truth a little bit. and i want to talk about white house press secretaries now. there has always been a bit of a myth about white house press secretaries. the myth is they serve both the
president and the press corps. it is often noted that the press secretary's office is midway between the oval office and the white house press briefing room. this is supposed to be indicative of the press secretary's neutrality. but it ain't necessarily so. [laughter] john: press secretaries rarely mislead from the podium. current press secretary excepted. but reporters often have private conversation with white house press secretaries, often with the understanding that whatever the press secretary says is on background, not attributable to him or her. i have had press secretaries try to mislead me, especially if they suspected i was sniffing around about a story that might harm the president. as a rule, press secretaries try to be honest, but there are
exceptions. i will let my fellow panelists fill you in on what it's like today. jennifer: ok. christi, you were with barack obama from the illinois statehouse and when he was in the u.s. senate, and i think they just said that when you were at the "chicago tribune," oh, how cute, he is running for president. let's have christi do that. [laughter] jennifer: he is not going anyplace. and it landed you in the white house. christi: it went something like that. i had a real hard time breaking into covering the power structure in the illinois statehouse, so i had to stake out, like, the backbenchers. that is how i got to know barack obama. so that kind of worked in my favor. he always had time to talk, and there was plenty that was said. jennifer: from day one, he got on that helicopter and you were out of there. you did not go back to the white house. christi: well, i did.
i covered the trump administration for six weeks. it was very brief. but not because it was terrible. that is a great story. i really wanted to cover it. but i had done it for eight years and covered the obama white house from two years of campaign all the way through the white house and then to the last day when i waved goodbye at andrews air force base. and i felt like i had done it and i had done it well. and it is a little bit exhausting, even for a newspaper. it's even worse for network reporters. but yeah, it was a really great ride. that was also a great story. it's easy to look back now and think that things were so much easier during the obama years, that the white house was so much easier to cover and they had such a different attitude toward the press, and that is true. but it was by no means easy to figure out what was really going on in the obama white house. remember how he got elected by going around the traditional -- all the institutions that people
used to have to deal with, and one of them was us, the press corps, so he was masterful with social media. he could command an audience with whomever he wished to talk to, and he very often did that. he was so powerful on the stump that people would just write what he said on the stump, and after a while, you realized it's actually pretty hard to get a fix on the story they are not trying to tell you. they were so good at it and they will be remembered -- the obama administration will be remembered for the mastery of the message and the discipline, the devotion to the message that made it so hard to cover, and what we did as a press corps was try to fight all the time for just little bits. we tried to chip away everyday, trying to find a way to get behind that curtain to be there, to witness things.
there was a -- probably all of you are familiar with the work of pete souza, the white house photographer whose work is legendary, and story of the obama administration is told so beautifully in his books and his instagram feed. and it is also the story from their point of view. and that was a hard thing to compete with. it was hard for the -- we spent a lot of time advocating for the independent press, for the stills and the cameras to be seeing the same things the white house apparatus has most of the access to. so i feel like that bears mentioning for the historical record. it was a fight all the time. we had some wind at our back because the president read the "new york times" everyday, and he believed what he read in it, generally. or mostly. [laughter] christi: because so often he said it, or his administration was so expert at its relationships with news outlets, and especially that one, and the
ones they liked and respected and the reporters they liked and respected. so there was always the fact that the president was going to read in the paper the next day the stories that we had all written, and we were dealing with white house press and white house staff, we always had that awareness. and president obama pretty much hewed to the standards of the presidents before him, such as giving regular press conferences and side-by-side with world leaders after they met. it was also a very sophisticated diplomatic operation and they had learned the lessons of their forebears. they knew how to try to use the press and the diplomatic process. some i can name many times i was -- so i can name many times i was called upon to ask very hard questions of the president when they knew full well what i was going to ask about. i had been writing about it, i have been asking about it, but it was easier for president obama to hear me ask the question then for him to make
the same point to the world leader with whom he had just met. it was a little more artful in that relationship, and there will be times when we, as a press corps, we fought to get access to the president of china, to ask the president of china question. -- questions. we won that battle. we worked for weeks and days, and the final hours, trying to make that happen. when it finally happened, it was perfectly useful to the obama white house, exactly what they wanted to happen. we were fully aware of that, so there was sort of those two things always happening at the same time. we were fighting for transparency and for access to timeewsmakers, at the same we understood they were very sophisticated in their approach to when and how they gave us that access. so i think that -- i do think we are in a new place now. i do know you want to get to that question later, so i will hold off for the moment.
but it does seem like it bears mentioning. but it was not always easy covering the obama white house. jennifer: how did the relationship change? you covered him in the state house and then in congress, but how did it change over the eight years that you were there, the relationship between the press and barack obama? christi: for me personally, it got a lot harder to get his time, so that was the problem. [laughter] jennifer: there were more than one of you covering him. christi: right, exactly. he had a long time to talk in the state house after judiciary committee meetings, but after a while, it -- it was busy. [laughter] christi: but over time, you just got better at figuring out who was really paying close attention and who the most knowledgeable reporters were on the subjects that he wanted to talk about. and he gave a lot of access to those reporters, whom he trusted and whom he thought would tell -- understand the story as he
wanted to tell it, which is not to say they were not independent and adversarial -- they were. and i can't say that any of those people who got that deep access to the president were writing fluffy pieces. they just weren't. but in general, they were somewhat positioned to accept the president's general take on things or they at least were going to cover it it in a way that gave it enough credibility that it was useful to the president. so i think he was always good at that. i think he got better at it, and i think he developed a lot of those relationships over time. jennifer: so kristen, you covered both the obama white house and now you are 18 months into the trump white house. how are those different? are they different at all? [laughter] kristen: a little different. i want to emphasize what christi was saying. we fought for access under the obama administration. we often had adversarial interactions. i was often shouting questions at former president obama as well.
there are some very notable differences though, and so i will speak to some of those. i know you will address them in your questioning. i think one of the biggest differences is the pace of our news cycle. as a white house correspondent, you are constantly trying to stay ahead of the curve, and under the obama administration, we would be sort of tracking three, maybe four big stories at any given time, and i think under the trump administration, that has just grown exponentially. we are covering domestic policy, foreign policy, covering his tweets, which at times can completely change the news cycle. we are covering the russian investigation, special counsel's investigation into russian meddling. that is a beat in and of itself, yet we can never fall behind in terms of being in contact with the folks who are working on that.
both his team, special counsel, and otherwise. and so when you look at one news cycle, one day, it really is a marathon on any given day. it is a day that usually starts at about 5:00 a.m., when the alarm clock goes off, and he starts tweeting at 6:00, 7:00, or five minutes before "the today show." so my producer gets in my ear did you see the tweets? yes, how are we going to do it? he just we did this. cnn do a greatt job of doing this every week. i look at what we have covered during the week, i just had a sampling, the week of july 27 on
, weay, just monday alone had michael: audio recordings. already here are two major storylines. how are we going to make sure we are updating this? you are constantly able to update. , senateof a knotty confirms robert wilke to serve as the a secretary. that's just monday. it goes on and on. when you look back is sort of astounds me sometimes how quickly the news cycle is
changing and we are still trying to stay ahead of it, holding him to account, not just throwing stuff on the air without analyzing it. i think that is one of the key challenges. we have a lot of people covering the white house. when i first started in the obama administration there was me, chuck todd. at that time, we had very busy days. we now have five correspondents, , the night doesn't start at 1130 or later. think ofthtaking to the extent to which the content has grown. is one element that makes it different. the other part is the unpredictability. that has increased but the
single tweet as well. is how he governs and runs his white house. obama didsident things in the sense that he would hold press conferences. when something big happened he comes in the briefing room. that's not -- that's not like president trump. he will often surprise us, several weeks ago right after he had his summit with king john on he came out on the white house jonathan-he did a press conference with us. we had very little heads up. said perhaps i will come out to the north lawn.
serioust know if he was , his officials did not know if he was serious. said ihis officials don't think he expects you to be waiting out there. he said he thinks we're wasting our time. suppressing not only us but some of his top officials. i find that unique. questioning,t our we can asketimes question is when he is in the oval office, when he is departing to go on whatever trippi is going on. you can hear marine one behind him and that's why we sure so loudly.
sure hewe want to make can hear. end with an net unpredictability, my first few weeks on the white house, i was meeting with hope hicks, and i said to her, i have not cover the campaign so is meant people as you can introduce me to, i would be very grateful. i'm to play catch-up. she said, hold on, let me see if i can introduce you to a few people right now. she came back and said, follow me. and she walked me into the oval office, and there was the president, the vice president, the chief of staff at the time, gary cohn. and there was one of the few moments where my knees started to shake because i was caught so off guard. i was thinking, ok, i've got to have a question for you i started talking to him about health care. the first attempt to repeal and replace obamacare had just failed.
you always have to be ready when you cover the white house, you always have to be ready for a press conference, no matter who the president. you always need to have your head about what is the headline today, what do i need to get from the president in case there is something impromptu. i know your question and answers, you will discuss "fake news", so i will just say, the other thing that makes this moment unique, when we started to experience this under former president obama, i think we are at a cultural flashpoint. we saw this again this weekend, president trump started to have this exchange with lebron james. yes, it was about sports, yes, it was about lebron james' criticism of him, but for a lot
of people, they went back to wait a minute, is there something bigger and broader here. under president obama, we started to realize there were a lot of different people in this country who are shouting at each other, not listening to each other when it comes to some of these very difficult issues whether it be the relationship between communities of color and police, for example. you think of some of the protests that have sparked up some of the groups that have been empowered under this president, charlottesville, for example. we started to feel that under obama and now it seems to be reaching to a boiling point. our challenge as journalists is to try and help people listen in a constructive way, to work through these complicated issues in a way that turns down the
temperature. instead of ratcheting it up. i think that as one of the other components that makes this a really remarkable and unique moment. >> i will start with a question, are you an enemy of the people? [laughter] >> how do you deal with that? >> i do not see any of us as the enemy to the people. >> and that was not that hard to say, was it? no. i think it is a remarkable moment because that phrase and the tensions that has bubbled up, as you all have seen, when we cover a trump rally, have bubbled to the surface, and so i think most of us try to for the most part say, look, that is the political tactic the president is using. i am going to do my job and stay
focused on doing my job, the truth, reporting the facts. the moments when it becomes difficult is when you start to feel a little nervous and sometimes that happens at rallies. i can tell you that at nbc, we often have at political rallies now, security, which is something that you just could not imagine that heading into the 2016 election. i would never have thought we would have had security, and that is where you start to get nervous, so i think it is helpful when kellyanne conway, for example, one of his top advisers, comes out and said she does not see the press as an enemy of the people. i think that is constructive to the conversation. jennifer: john, going back to the press is the enemy, is this completely unchartered what we are seeing? we saw this before with the nixon enemies list. john: yes. let's talk about these rallies.
a "washington post" columnist in an op-ed that i think was yesterday suggested -- i am retired, so i would not be going anyway, but i would certainly not go voluntarily -- that we should not go because we are fodder for him. by being there, he can point to you and say, "terrible, scum of the earth," etc., and this columnist suggested that only a pool covers the rallies. what does a pool consist of? four people or five people. >> 13. as the white house, it is 13. john: and the camera. >> including the camera. i have negotiated this number many times. [laughter] 13 really matters. give or take.
john: i totally disagree with this columnist. i think you have got to show up. this columnist was also saying do not ask the press secretary, do not ask her questions that you know she is going to just say, this is what the president has said and this is the president's position. you have to ask the questions, even though you know you're not going to get an answer. >> i think that is right, and i think that is to your point, as well. that phrase is so frightening because it has been used over time to justify violence against political opponents, and it is the thing that puts this in a fully different category for me. yes, we can all sit up here and talk about the president's the presidents we have covered and
talk about how difficult it is to cover news at the white house and under the government of any executive, but this is in a wholly different category because of the open hostility towards the press and because of the blatant disregard for facts and the perfect comfort in countenancing things that are simply false and demonstrably false, and what worries me is when the press starts acting like the enemy that the executive branch wants to cast us as. when we start playing that role, we are joining in this bipolar view of the world, and we are becoming that crazy extreme on the other end of that original supposition, and i think that by refusing to comport ourselves like journalists and go and cover the news as we always have, standing our posts,
watching the waterfront, even if that is all we are doing sometimes, i think that skewing to that normal course of business is the very first thing we have to do as we figure out what the next steps are. john: other presidents have said that. >> that was so well put, what both of you are saying. at the white house, having a conversation, and what we have determined is a way to be a good journalist right now is to be a journalist, just to go back to fundamentals, and all of the answers are there. to ask questions, to fact check, to hold the president and lawmakers accountable for what they say and what they do, and it is really basic in terms of what our charge is and do that every single day and not get wrapped up in a back and forth with the president or whoever is
lobbying that criticism. john, do you have -- john: there are a lot of people who believe that the white house press corps consists of liberals, and their pals are all democrats, and they only vote democratic. i think that would change when reporters start getting better paid. [laughter] and wanting those republican tax cuts. but the fact is that bad relations between democratic administrations and the press corps, it has never been carried to this extreme, of course, but jimmy carter in the white house really did not like us. when he came out after he had defeated gerald ford in 1976, and ford and carter was inaugurated, and the press secretary, jody powell, came to washington and went around
talking to bureau chiefs, and i remember jody told the nbc bureau chief, "you know, you will not have to sniff around for anything. we're going to be transparent." and it turned out to be one of the least transparent. i do not know if it was because he was a southerner, it just did not work. lbj, we were all terrible on the war. the clintons had little use for us. especially hillary, but bill, too, and we have already spoken about obama, so that really is it. >> what about the techniques? you talked about doing your job and not becoming part of the war in this back and forth. what about techniques that we have seen the white house press
corps recently, where you have someone banned, this back and forth with sarah sanders, where they basically would not let her go to another question when she was trying to get rid of somebody's question, so that kind of banding together against the common enemy. >> that is totally antithetical. reporters are bad at that. except for drinking at the bar after work. but ever cooperating with one another is against the competitive grain, in the interest of getting answers to questions, i have really been heartened to watch how the press corps has done this, just refused to move on until the question is answered. it does not always work, and it does have to be embraced by the majority of people, in the room,
and certainly the loudest people in the room. then the foils have to refuse to be foils. every president has their favorite person to go to try to distract and every press secretary also, and people have to refuse to cooperate. they have to keep on the hard line of questioning. i have been so surprised to see how much the press corps has done that. >> they spent a lot of time sharpening the questions. spending two or three hours, what is the best question, and you have got your question ready to go, but maybe the person, the guy just ahead of you asked a question, and the president does not really answer, and now, people do these follow-ups. in my day, that rarely happened, because you had your question, and by god, you are going to ask your question, and you did not ask a follow-up. now people are better at not letting the president off the
hook. >> i think there is sort of a collective. by the way, because covering an administration is so tough and competitive, there is a broader collegiality in terms of, hey, look, we're all in this together. you want to fight for holding this administration accountable, and sort of allowing people to either get their follow-up in or to get an answer. it has sort of happened organically. it is not something that was discussed. i just think it is something we all feel is very important, as we do feel as though -- whether it is there at the podium or it is the president or questioning, to really press them to give us an answer, and i think that is why you're seeing that. i also think there are people in the press corps right now who have different ways of going about it. but we all sort of respect each other's independence to do that.
ok, that is your tactic in the briefing room. that may not be mine. i might go about it differently, but we are all journalists at the end of the day. jennifer: let's turn to fake news. there are two definitions of "fake news." there is the fake news of outside sources coming up with items to meddle in our democratic process, and then there is the labeling of legitimate news media as fake news. how do we deal with that? what is going on there? >> it is a brilliant marketing scheme. it is the best one going right now, and it has got a very ready audience. jennifer: how do these journalists combat that? >> all i can suggest is we keep doing our jobs and keep telling real stories and things that are true.
and also, stop acting like it is about us, because it is not. it is not just us. you're not a personal star when you are grilling the press secretary or the president. you are a reporter trying to get answers to stories with people. there is considerable pressure on people -- this is to your earlier point. there is considerable pressure on reporters to ask the big question, even if the question has been asked before, to ask it yourself so you are on the air with your question on your network when you do your piece. that is in contention with following up on someone else's question, but it goes to this heart of the whole fake news problem. we have to stop. we have to give in to all the pressures that drag us towards doing things that are not real, actual journalism like we all know how to do it. >> i will also say, there is always been a pressure when you are a journalist when covering
the white house to get it right. there is very little room for error. we have determined that there is really no room for error. so i think you would be surprised how much effort goes into one story. we almost never use single sources unless we are confirming something. or unless it is coming from sarah sanders herself, and she is on the record with it, for example. we research and report some of these bigger headlines that we have for months. it goes through an extremely complex process before it actually goes to air, and i think that is one byproduct. we have determined that it is important that anything that nbc reports on, any platform, whether it is a tweet or whether it is an online report or whether it is nightly news, it has to be accurate and has to have been properly vetted. jennifer: how is that transparent to your audience? how do they know? could you do a better job of letting them know? >> that is a good question.
i think the vetting process is always been rigorous at nbc and other networks and publications. it is tough to do that and a report. sometimes, we say this is based on five administration officials, and to be as candid, and specific, and precise as possible about where the source is coming from, because if you look at the story, and five people outside of the administration with knowledge, that gets a little, does anyone -- where are the voices that are right there that can speak to this? >> i think that is one important trend, with the coverage of public officials in general right now. reporters get lazy over time,
happen 15 times before, so we fudge and we get a little bit lazy in disclosing our sources to you, right, and that did happen. i feel like that slippage did happen during the obama administration because they generally did what they said they were going to do. in this case, in all media right now, there is more disclosure of sources of information because we have to. you cannot say the president is
you can tell the story. i was not there and you may have been in the room, i do not know, of the winston churchill -- >> the king bust. john: yes, the king bust. tell that story. >> a reporter was actually for the pool that day thought that the bust of mlk had been moved and wrote that into a pool report. i think it was because it was the first few days of the administration, it had literally been moved around. he issued an immediate correction, corrected himself, apologize, and i think that is an important part of what is happening right now. when you are wrong, you say you are wrong. but the president seized on that for months. i mean, it was brutal, and the reporter felt terrible. we are human.
we all make mistakes. it was a mistake any of us could have made. it was a reminder for a reporter and all of us to question yourself, to take a beat and say, i think that happened. let me check before i this in a pool note, but it was an example of exactly what you are saying, which is that the president will personally go after you if you make a mistake, even if you have which it was corrected almost immediately. think is another important rules that we live in. peopleportant to remind that if a mistake is made we corrected. some people have lost their jobs. that is really tough.
we have question from the audience? one thing i noticed around the time of the dwindling of the candidate not that true was getting positive positive coverage, he wasn't but every soundbite from trap and from his opponent seem to be around the set traps set like if rubio was talking, it was about tro the same thing happened in the general election. resist the urge to have the universe, just being about tro
resist, not taking the sound i but it might be i thinkmething else that's our cousin the great story and everybody wants to it. to me the sad losses not the soundbite or the quotes that we take what the stories we witness its how much of the oxygen that story picks up. there are things we should be in perhaps scoured the
to me that about turning away from even though you know it will draw traffic you know our viewership up. it's addictive. they want the ratings and he delivered the rating and he is foxl delivering them or fox news is the only outfit that will carry a child rally from beginning to end. having ongoing this session
every day about that exact question how will we covered they in a way that captures way in which he wants to drive the narrative, but also the policy issues that we could be covering and what is happening in the agencies. we need to be paying attention to everything. now we are trying to do a better job staying on top of it. three administration related pieces in a single broadcast that is a half an hour long. we have time for one more question. bill opens the from rich friend
-- richmond. as much as of the news media as the enemies of the people generates nervous laughter in this room, eugene robinson says that this is aut phrase that has been used by totalitarian dictators to andify assassinations purging of political opponents and members of the media. the headline of that piece today is going torhetoric get somebody killed. do you agree? >> it could happen. has securityc personnel. in the past we only got security personnel when we covered wars in places like of neo-.
every trump really has become a potential battlefield. it's a little scout skerry out there. -- scary out there. >> we hope that it doesn't happen. i don't think anyone in the administration wants it to happen. we just all hope that that is , it's aend result remarkable feeling when you are standing on a podium and an entire group of people turnarounds and starts yelling at you. >> we have to be careful not to start the fire. after the helsinki news conference anderson cooper said to me, that was one of the most disgraceful performances i any u.s. president in history. you don't st. nick things like
that. -- you don't say things like that. it will never be fair to him. i am going to end with one question that i would like you all to address. you have a room full of journalists from around the country and world, what advice would you have for these educators for preparing the next generation of reporters if they end up covering the white house? >> do it old school. think what you do is so important to the future of our republic and the next generation of the press corps of reporters all over the country, i just think we have to go back to reporting,practice
practice storytelling, practice writing. this is my bread and butter. i believe in it strongly. to understand what is going on and to read everything that they can get their hands on, to be knowledgeable about history and knowledgeable about lots of things. the answer lies in this room. be,f you can cover a police county commissioner, city council you can be a white house correspondent. the same rules are there. the disciplines need to be applied. easy thenned at how white house --. i had covered the charlotte, north carolina school board near
a desegregation case trial. i came up to washington and i said, wow, it's not so hard. hard and it is harder now than it has ever been. i think what you guys are doing now, the effort that you have to put into it, the hours, i never have to do that. i came in first at the pentagon. and tome was simmering calls me says, i'd like you to come over and do the white house with. i set tom i will come over and be the junior guy. but i have my own thing over here at the pentagon. andaid this is a big story it will be great a work for both of us so i went over there.
how many correspondents to have no? five. tom was there by himself until i came over. quite a change. for what you are all doing. it is so remarkable and important. my advice would be to remind students why they are getting into the field of journalism. todaytalking to someone that said, this is the moment. this is what we have all been training for. for those who are daunted by the task at hand, these are the moments when it really matters. remember when i was in college a lot of people sales -- people said why do you want to become a journalist? whether it's democrats, republicans, whoever is in office, whatever you are
>> we are live at the heritage foundation to hear from former law clerks. they will be talking about their time working with brett kavanaugh. just getting stored in their started. >> people i know coming to learn more about judge kavanaugh's very distinct career. clerkship with anthony kennedy, associated independent counsel under kenneth starr. ,ssociated white house counsel staff assistant to george w. bush