Who likes sitting in the nosebleed section at a concert? The sound bites and you can’t see the band. The only benefit is that you’re closer to the beer stands and the bathrooms.
The White House briefing room is obviously smaller than a concert venue with only seven rows and 49 seats. The coveted front row is arguably the only section that counts. And the stakes are high. These are assigned to the mainline brass in the White House Press Corps. They are called on first when they have questions, while the reporters who are relegated to the back are ignored.
Since the dawn of time, Helen Thomas, who just retired after making anti-Semitic comments, has occupied the best seat in the house – the middle, front row. She always got to ask the first question at press conferences and had been on the job so long, I thought she’d be entombed there. The jockeying for her seat has begun in earnest and it’s an entertaining spectacle. Some days, I miss being a reporter, but the day the lobbying began isn’t one of them. I think the campaign was under way even before her chair was cold.
Bloomberg reporter Ed Chen told The Wall Street Journal this week, “It’s like musical chairs in elementary school, except it has the cutthroat viciousness of a snake pit.”
Pity the poor Talk Radio reporter who occupies the last seat in the back. You don’t stand a chance, pal. And Media News, which is in the sixth row, might as well quit now. No one knows who that is.
So which outlets have front-row seats? CNN, Reuters, ABC, CBS, the Associated Press and NBC. My hunch is that the FOX reporter, who has the middle second-row chair, doesn’t have a hope of moving up, given that we have a Democratic president who clearly spurns the network. I’m putting my money down on The New York Times, whose reporter sits in the second row.
No matter which contender is bestowed the honor of moving up, the more interesting battle could play out over who gets that newly vacated reporter’s seat. The White House Correspondents’ Association determines the pecking order. Care to place any bets?