The WHCA is turning 100. And as we begin to celebrate this milestone, we are looking for anecdotes, pictures, or memorabilia from past dinners and past Association events. If you have something you'd like to share, please let us know.
CELEBRATING OUR CENTENNIAL - THE WHCA AT 100
Legend has it that reporters first took up a daily beat inside the White House one frigid day in the early 1900s, after President Theodore Roosevelt noticed a band of correspondents staking out sources in the rain. The president "looked out and took pity," as one chronicle of the period reports it.
But historians have since debunked that simple version of events, offering instead a richer tale about how reporters worked their way into the White House and then slowly expanded their presence over the years.
In fact, the rise of the White House beat is "an evolutionary portrait," says Martha Joynt Kumar, a Towson University political scientist on the presidency and the press. She has charted the way the White House press worked its way up from huddling over one small table in the mansion to occupying a full press room in the West Wing.
A press corps of some 250 people now keeps a daily watch on the administration, relying heavily on their proximity to the president and his staff inside the walls of the historic building.
This year, the White House Correspondents' Association marks the 100th anniversary of its 1914 founding to advocate for reporters on that historic assignment. The group has grown and expanded its activities, in 1920 launching a spring dinner that now merits news coverage along with a yearly appearance by the sitting president.
The journalists of today's WHCA share the spirit of those early forerunners, pushing for access to the president and members of the administration amid the challenges of a modern media landscape.
As the association marks its anniversary this year, veteran White House reporters, political journalists and scholars will chart the story of that evolving group of professionals in a series of blog posts on this website. The year-long series is being produced in cooperation with the White House Historical Association.
Today, the WHCA represents each sector of the media filling the press room each day. All trace their roots back to the newspaper reporters who, in the 1890s, stood outside the White House fence to seek meetings with the president and to question visitors as they left the grounds.
Contrary to the discredited legend, a hardy corps of reporters had actually been working the beat from inside the White House for years before Roosevelt even took office.
In fact, two administrations prior to Roosevelt, a group of correspondents already had their own table inside the building. A Washington Star reporter by the name of William W. Price –- who became the first president of the WHCA -- referred to it in a letter to the staff of President Grover Cleveland.
Administration officials under President William McKinley further expanded the area where reporters could roam. By the time of the Spanish-American War, journalists had pushed their way in so far that they could be found sitting about on the porch, in the front lobby and on the landings, according to accounts of the time.
"With their own observed territory," Kumar writes in a paper on the history of the beat, "reporters established a property claim in the White House."
Every generation of reporters since has pushed to build on that right, pressing for briefings, interviews and regular coverage of the president's public activities by a rotating group of representatives called "the pool."
We'll bring you their stories, here, as the centennial year unfolds.
--Christi Parsons, Tribune newspapers
Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, Unidentified members of the White House press corps on the south lawn, c. 1950s
President Obama and Michelle Obama dancing at the 2013 inaugural ball. Photo/Doug Mills, New York Times
Photos/WHCA℠ and the National Archives
White House Correspondents, 1924. Digitized glass negative, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.
President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore at the WHCA℠ dinner
Chief of Staff, Andy Card, informs the President that a second aircraft has hit the World Trade Center. Photo/Doug Mills, AP
Members of the press travel pool, including ABC's Ann Compton, watch in horror as images of the World Trade Center are seen on live TV aboard
Air Force One when it was unable to return to Washington on September 11, 2001. Photo/Doug Mills, AP
President Lyndon B. Johnson takes the oath of office aboard Air Force One, Love Field, Dallas, Texas, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. LBJ Library, Photo/Cecil Stoughton, 11/22/1963
President Clinton receives an enthusiastic welcome from thousands of Nigerian children. He is wearing a garment reserved for royalty, given to him by the local chief. Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, AP
Ronald Reagan at a 1982 political rally. Photo/ National Archives
Richard Nixon press conference. Photo/ National Archives
Jimmy Carter press conference. Photo/ National Archives