No, reporting on the White House isn’t glamorous.
Merriman Smith, the most famous White House correspondent for four decades, from Franklin Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, was often offered less-grueling beats by his bosses at United Press International. He declined. Smith saw the beat as “glamorous and important” and the only one that “sated [his] competitive zeal,” according to a monograph about him. That perception hasn’t changed. Reporters still fight for the White House assignment, with its extensive foreign travel, frequent stories on Page One and all the airtime a TV correspondent could crave.
But there’s often nothing splendid about the work. Correspondents endure unexplained odors and recurring rodent infestations in their White House workspace. My desk in the basement has suffered through frequent flooding. Then there are the hours spent at White House stakeouts in the rain, snow and heat, never certain if a visiting lawmaker will deign to come out. Or the nights spent in vans on pool duty (a tedious job in which reporters take turns recording comings and goings for the rest of the press corps that couldn’t be on site).