An online journalist who made Internet history Monday by becoming the first blogger to be granted a daily White House press pass said he found the experience underwhelming.
"As glamorous as the beat itself may be, there is little glamour to be found in the briefing room," Garrett M. Graff wrote of his first venture into the inner sanctum of the White House press corps. "The conditions of the briefing room, famously built over the old White House swimming pool, um, leave something to be desired."
Graff, author of the which bills itself as a “gossip blog about Washington, D.C., media,” described the briefing room as crowded and dreary and said the morning "gaggle" — an off-camera question-and-answer session with that precedes the formal news briefing later in the day — at which White House press secretary Scott McClellan fielded queries from correspondents was "remarkably uneventful."
Earlier, Graff reported somewhat tongue-in-cheek that he had spent a late night studying “Social Security actuarial tables and phoning Nobel Prize-winning economists to discuss the weakening dollar so that we'd be fully up-to-speed with some hard-hitting questions.”
The former editor of the Harvard Crimson began his White House odyssey in the wake of the flap over James D. Guckert. Using the name Jeff Gannon, Guckert got into White House briefings as a writer for a Web site run by Texas Republicans.
The Gannon/Guckert saga created a Washington ruckus over who’s really a journalist and how media members get access to the White House. Administration press officials said it was easy to get a day pass and Graff decided to test that contention. He set about trying to get one and chronicled his attempt on his blog.
The family business
Graff, the son of a longtime Associated Press reporter and the grandson of a New York drama critic, had little success before mainstream media picked up his cause, he told the New York Times: "USA Today started making calls on Thursday. CNN mentioned it on 'Inside Politics,' and Ron Hutcheson, president of the White House Correspondents Association, raised the issue with the White House Press Office," he said. "I think a combination of all of that made the White House pay attention and decide to let me in."
The Weblog genre has been praised and pilloried alike by critics who credit it with everything from allowing "average Joes" to push stories ignored by traditional media into the public spotlight to disseminating blatant rumors and lies to large audiences.
"Blogging technology has, for the first time in history, given the average Jane the ability to write, edit, design, and publish her own editorial product — to be read and responded to by millions of people, potentially — for around $0 to $200 a year," wrote Matt Welch in 2003 in the Columbia Journalism Review.
As his big day in Washington dawned, Graff blogged: “Now the big moment has arrived. When not reading up on Social Security, we spent yesterday afternoon baking and have three dozen chocolate mint cookies as a thank-you for the White House press office. … Posting will be sporadic this morning until we return from this exercise in ‘real reporting.’"