Video: Briefing room gets a makeover

By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 8/2/2006 7:30:10 PM ET 2006-08-02T23:30:10

It was built on top of the swimming pool where Lyndon Johnson used to routinely swim naked.

President Richard Nixon, who preferred the White House bowling alley for recreation, had the pool covered up and converted to a briefing room and it’s been home to the growing White House press corps ever since.

A lot of history has happened at that podium. And all of us who have been White House correspondents have come to know the place as a kind of grimy, run-down home away from home. The broken chairs, the wild wiring, the roof leaks, rodents have been spotted — all within feet of that iconic blue curtain.

So today, with proper ceremony and special guests, they shut the place down.

"I know you've been complaining about the digs for a while, this is like the end of an old era," President Bush said Wednesday to the press corps.

The Press Room, which bears the name of former Reagan Press Secretary Jim Brady, is closing for nine months of renovations. Brady was on hand Wednesday with a whole podium full of former flacks to mark the occasion.

For now, reporters will work out of temporary offices on Jackson Place, the side street across from the White House. They'll come back to comfortable seats, less-cramped surroundings, a newfangled video screen, and the smell of fresh paint, replacing what's there now.

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