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WASHINGTON, D.C. — A panel of White House reporters, while conceding that any professional can always do a better job, generally rejected the notion that journalists don't dig deeply enough before reporting stories from the White House.
During a panel discussion Friday before hundreds of journalists attending the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference, Richard Wolffe of Newsweek magazine pointed out a cover story in his magazine that examined the administration’s arguments and concluded “case not proven” in all but one category.
“If people think we didn’t ask questions, they’re wrong,” Wolffe said. “The reporting was there if you were looking, it was there if you were reading.”
Wendell Goler of the Fox News Channel argued, “Questions were asked, questions were not answered.”
The panelists also shed light on the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, seen by some as the nationally televised epitome of a cozy relationship between reporters and the people they cover.
“Only a handful of people who go to those dinners are White House regulars,” said Deb Riechmann of The Associated Press.
CBS radio correspondent Peter Maer pointed out that the traditional dinner continues despite uneasiness that it has become a star-studded extravaganza, because it raises substantial funds for scholarships and other charities.
Responding to a question from the floor, the reporters agreed that there should be more follow-up questions at presidential news conferences, but pointed out that President Bush often moves to the next questioner rather than responding to a follow-up. But Goler insisted “it is incumbent on us to challenge his answers to other reporters.”
Another questioner from the audience asked the correspondents if they voted in presidential elections. The reporters were split on whether they should or did. When asked if he was registered Republican or Democrat, Goler quipped, “Look it up, it's a public record.”
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.