Friday, April 25, 2008

Inside The West Wing

After dinner at The Source yesterday in DC we headed back down Pennsylvania Avenue to 1600 where we were ushered into the northwest gate of the White House for a private tour of the press area and the new White House press room.
The formal name of the press room is the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room and it is named in honor of President Reagan's first press secretary, Jim Brady who was shot and permanently disabled during an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981.
The Brady Room is actually a small theater in the West Wing of the White House where the White House Press Secretary gives daily briefings to the news media and the President sometimes addresses the press and the nation. It is located between the workspace assigned to the White House Press Corps and the office of the Press Secretary.
The room is really so small that our handful of visitors (pictured) actually filled the front of the theater very quickly. As many know, this area was an indoor swimming pool (used by FDR, JFK and Johnson) until Nixon covered the pool and turned it into press offices and a lounge that could double as a briefing room. The swimming pool still exists, although it is now used as a crawlspace to handle the wiring of the press operations. As you can see from the photo, the ceiling in the room is quite low and the room is rather long and narrow as befits what was once a (sort of) lap pool.
In December 2005 the White House announced its intention to renovate the aging Press Briefing Room and cramped press corps offices. On August 2, 2006, the final briefing was held, and President Bush hosted several previous press secretaries at a closing ceremony.
President Bush reopened the renovated room in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the morning of July 11, 2007.
The most noticeable change to the briefing room is a different backdrop for the press conferences, now featuring a softly lit screen flanked by mock columns instead of the previous blue curtain. The new podium also contains video screens for teleconferencing and multimedia displays.
We also saw the former "pebble beach" where the White House correspondents deliver their daily video reports with the White House as a backdrop. The correspondents don't have to stand on pebbles anymore. President Bush had the area paved over so that it is much more comfortable for the reporters.
The President has actually been quite kind to the White House press corps. But for real friends in Washington he still (wisely) relies on his Scottish Terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley.
BTW: Our thanks to Jeff Jubelirer of Ceisler Jubelirer in Philadelphia for arranging this memorable tour!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

and thanks to dan for providing the much needed entertainment on the long ride back home. I understand a column on "insufferable" Philadelphians is forthcoming? Inquiring minds want to know. JJ