Wrong Place, Wrong Time -- The Sequel

(CBS)
CBS White House Correspondent Mark Knoller missed a Bush press conference earlier this month. In this dispatch he shares/vents other frustrations about the logistics of covering President Bush this past summer.

It costs CBS News a fortune to cover the President – especially when he travels. And it sure looks like it didn't get its money's worth this month.

Three times in recent weeks, those of us who were covering the President's trips to Kennebunkport, Maine; Crawford, Texas; and today to Bellevue, Washington were totally out of position for the big stories of the day.

On the morning of Thursday, August 9, members of the traveling press were on the press plane en route to Maine – just as Pres. Bush was holding a formal news conference back at the White House.

We had returned to Washington three days later, but were airborne again Monday morning flying to Waco, Texas in advance of the President beginning a two-week stay at his ranch in Crawford.

So what happens, while we're half-way to Central Texas? The president walks out to Marine One to announce the resignation of his senior advisor Karl Rove.

And again this morning, the President ends his two-week ranch stay and arrives at TSTC Airfield in Waco – to makes his first public statement on the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

But where was most of the traveling press? On yet another press charter just arriving in Seattle, where Mr. Bush would be coming later in the day to do a fund-raiser in nearby Bellevue for Congressman Dave Reichert, R-WA.

Of course, the President's statements get covered whether the traveling press is with him or not. And in these days of cable news channels, live satellite feeds and near-instant transcripts of everything the President says, reporters don't have to be anywhere near him to write about him.

Truth be told, on most presidential trips, many of us in the press corps cover his statements and actions without actually laying eyes on him.

We hear his statements on audio feeds from the White House Communications Agency or see live video transmissions arranged by the TV Networks. We get written reports from our colleagues in the pool with the President and we get transcripts of his statements from the White House stenographers.

More often than not, we're always in the same city with him. So the dateline on our reports matched the place in which the President actually spoke.

But not always. Today, I was signing off my radio reports "Mark Knoller, CBS News, travelling with the President."

Otherwise it would take forever to explain why I was reporting on something Mr. Bush said in Waco - from over 1700 miles away in Bellevue, Washington.
  • Matthew Felling

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