Gridiron Dinner Kerfuffle Results in Unexpected Policy Change

USA Today Bureau Chief Susan Page and president of this year’s Gridiron’s Dinner has sent a letter to WHCA President and colleague David Jackson this morning about a policy change. After complaints at last month’s Gridiron Dinner that the White House press pool wasn’t allowed to cover President Obama’s remarks, they’ve decided change is in order. The rule has been set in stone for 126 years.

Don’t get too excited C-SPAN (and ex-MSNBCer David Shuster): the ban on photos and video remains.

“This has been the practice of the Gridiron Club since, well, forever,” Page explained in an e-mail. “But we took another look at the issue and have decided to change our policy. We will now welcome the print pooler to cover speeches at the dinner by the President or Vice President (who sometimes acts as the evening’s final speaker, when the President can’t make it). Our ban on photos and video remains.”

See Page’s letter to Jackson…

April 15, 2011

David Jackson

President, White House Correspondents Association

Dear David:

There was a kerfuffle last month over the Gridiron Club’s long-standing refusal to allow the White House press pool to cover the President’s speech at our annual dinner.

As an organization whose members have spent lots of time on White House pools — and respect the role the pool plays — we considered these objections seriously. I’m writing to let you know that we are changing our policy. In the future, we would welcome the White House print pooler into the dinner to cover the speech given by the President or Vice President.

To be clear: The Gridiron’s ban on photographs, video and audio recordings remains in place. The print pooler would not be allowed to tweet or post during the speech, to shoot photographs or video, or to make an audio recording to post online or broadcast. (An audio recording for the sole purpose of checking quotes for accuracy would be fine.) The pool report could be distributed as soon as the dinner ends.

As is the case with many social events the President attends, we’re inviting the pooler in only for his remarks, not for the whole shebang. However, as you know, the entire dinner is on the record, start to finish, and the audience is packed with journalists who are free to write about it after Auld Lang Syne has been sung. We also issue an embargoed press release that contains the lyrics of our satirical songs.

On the off-chance that some White House reporters don’t have a white-tie-and-tails outfit or ball gown in the back of their closets, we would ask only that the pooler be dressed in dark business clothes.

If you have questions or want to discuss this, please just let me know.

Thank you.


Susan Page

President, Gridiron Club

Publish date: April 15, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT