Here’s Why Reporters Always Travel With the President
From Vermont to Saudi Arabia, the president's traveling press corps has been there.
The traveling press corps of the U.S. president and vice president cover everything from brunch appearances in small towns to state dinners around the world.
While the day-to-day of a pool reporter is not always glamorous, their role in democracy is vital, according to experts.
"[The traveling press corps] chronicles the unfolding events, large and small, of a presidency, with the belief that writing history shouldn’t be left only to loyal staffers and government officials,” wrote Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News.
Journalists and pundits criticized president-elect Donald Trump for ditching his press pool during a dinner in Manhattan Tuesday night. Trump also excluded press from many of his campaign events in the months leading up to the election.
Leadership from the Trump campaign insisted he will follow protocol in taking the press corps with him on his travels as president. However, media experts expressed concern that Trump has already begun setting a dangerous precedent.
“The public needs to know where the president is,” Michael Wagner, a University of Wisconsin professor of journalism and political communications, told Travel + Leisure in an email. “The violation of these norms is important because these violations negatively affect our ability to engage in the practice of republican democracy. It prevents the press, and by extension the people, from being able to know what the president is doing in a crisis.”
The traveling press corps has been perhaps most widely known as the first to report on immediate threats to the president’s safety, as well as covering some of the biggest crises of the past century.
Several pool reporters accompanied President George W. Bush to an elementary school in Florida on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, expecting the event to be little more than a photo opportunity. As the terror attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. unfolded, those journalists became some of the first people to hear from the president.
The president’s press corps is also the first to deliver news on his safety and well-being, being the first to cover such moments as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
The White House press and traveling press corps can also capture spontaneous elements in the president's life, while being able to ask questions outside of the strict structure of a press conference. This type of open communication is a bedrock of democracy, according to Wagner.
“Shutting out independent, adversarial media professionals is something dictators do,” he said.