Most Of The Press Gets Left Behind In Istanbul

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
It doesn't take one more than a second to look at a map of the Middle East to see that Turkey is pretty close to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Besides being Iraq's northern neighbor, Turkey is a key ally in U.S. efforts on both war fronts. So when the White House announced that President Obama would end his 8-day European swing in Turkey, it didn't take long for members of the press to speculate that Turkey would not be the last stop on the trip.

For the last week, while traveling to London, Strasbourg, Prague, Ankara and finally Istanbul, the big question among the traveling White House press corps was "where's he going to go?" It was almost a foregone conclusion that the president would take an unscheduled stop on his way home to Washington.

Usually, the White House press leaves a location a few hours after the president does. After the press was told that our departure from Istanbul was delayed a few hours, this after the president took off from here, supposedly to go home, reporters grew even more suspicious.

Map: Obama's Trip
A day-by-day guide to one of the most closely watched presidential trips in recent memory.

Many here tried to figure out how long the flight was from Istanbul to Baghdad or Kabul in Afghanistan so we could get a sense of how long the president would be flying before anyone on Air Force One could call and tell us where they were. After two and a half hours of flight time, the tension in the press filing center in Istanbul was intense. No one knew where Mr. Obama was going, when he would get there and what was going to happen to us. When would we leave Istanbul and would we have enough time to file reports?

Then, in a flash, a White House press aide came running through the filing center, screaming "the pool report is out!!" He was referring to a print pool report filed by Richard Wolf of USA TODAY, who drew the rotation of being the print pool reporter for the day.

Wolf's report said it all: "Air Force One landed at Baghdad Intl Airport at 4:42."

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The news we'd all been waiting for. The president was in Iraq. The speculation was over, the chaos had begun.

With that, at 4:43 in the afternoon in Istanbul, 9:43 a.m. in Washington, a flurry of calls and emails went stateside as reporters began to get the word out.

For television, CBS' Bill Plante ran to a live camera position and put the news of the president's surprise trip on The Early Show. At the same time, at another camera a few feet away, ABC's Jake Tapper did the same thing for his morning show.

CBS' Chip Reid, who was traveling on Air Force One as part of the rotating Travel Pool, called into the television desk in Istanbul and filed what's called a pool report -- basically a description of what had happened.

Many of the other networks took live on television, even though he works for CBS. Chip has continued to call various reports in throughout the afternoon. His information, and that of producer Jeff Goldman who is with him in Iraq, is crucial for the other reporters to know what is happening on the ground in a war zone, hundreds of miles away.

As for the traveling press in Istanbul, the press is waiting here for the president to leave Iraq. However, they just told us that there is a maintenance problem on the plane we took here. A motor in the captain's chair is broken and we are waiting for a new part. We can head back home once the president leaves Iraq, and our plane is fixed.

Read more on Mr. Obama's visit to Iraq.

Robert Hendin is a CBS News White House producer. He has been traveling with the president throughout the trip.

  • Robert Hendin On Twitter»

    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.