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For decades it was a given that whenever the president traveled, a charter plane packed with members of the press would travel with him. But the press flights have been sharply curtailed in recent months, a victim of cost-cutting by news organizations that are struggling to stay profitable.
As a result, fewer reporters are tagging along with President Obama and his aides, limiting the number of news sources at a time when Americans are acutely interested in White House policies and personalities.
“The sole reason is money,” said Edwin Chen, the senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News and the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, who called the cutbacks alarming.
The budget cutbacks — by news organizations as varied as USA Today and ABC News — are catching up with White House coverage, traditionally job No. 1 of the news bureaus here. It is the latest sign of retrenchment, years after many regional newspapers stopped assigning reporters to the White House. Now even the big networks are feeling strained.
“The prices are exorbitant,” said David Westin, the president of ABC News. Seats on a press charter plane can run $2,000 for a domestic flight and tens of thousands overseas. ABC appears to be watching costs as it reshapes the news division, which eliminated 25 percent of its staff positions this spring.
I find it sad/funny that this article was published the same day that this season of ABC’s Bachelorette premiered, in which ABC flew 10+ men and Ali from Cali to NYC, Iceland (over the volcano days before it erupted!!), Turkey, Portugal and Tahiti.
We have two reactions this this, and they’re entirely inconsistent. On the one hand, having a pack of reporters following the President on every official trip is all kinds of silly—everyone gets the same pool reports, and it’s a lot of money for news orgs to spend to get essentially the same story that everyone else has.
On the other, and this is especially aimed at David Westin and the heads of the broadcast networks: Are you guys serious? The whole reason you’re allowed to take public airwaves to broadcast your shows (and, more important, to hijack that public space and sell it to advertisers) is because you are supposed to provide a public good, namely news and information, in return. It’s laughable for ABC, which reportedly was charging $900,000 for a 30-second spot on the Lost finale, to complain about having to spend $2k for a reporter’s plane ticket.