Why is the protective press pool so important? Look to unexpected events like 9/11

History proves that sometimes the most routine events, like a visit to an elementary school, can end up as moments of unmatched significance.

Profile picture of SiriusXM Editor
SiriusXM Editor
November 17, 2016

President Bush, at podium, speaks to members of the media prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, Wednesday, July 11, 2007, at the White House in Washington. First lady Laura Bush is at far right, White House Correspondents Association President Steve Scully, stands behind the president. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Nothing about Donald Trump’s run for the White House was traditional and as he transitions into the presidency, he and his team continue to defy norms.

This has led to some strained relationships, especially between the President-elect and the press. One major source of contention is Trump’s lack of a protective press pool, a rotating group of reporters who travel with the President at all times. Even more troubling to many members of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) is that Trump is deliberately avoiding the press. For example, he made a surprise departure from Trump Tower on Tuesday night for a steak dinner at the 21 Club in New York City.

SiriusXM host Julie Mason, who worked as a White House reporter for ten years and served as an elected board member of the WHCA, spoke to Michael Smerconish Thursday about the implications of Trump’s lack of protective pool and what it means for the press.

“When the president or the president-elect is moving around, is out of his home or office, a press pool accompanies him, generally, and that doesn’t mean they’re at the dinner table with him. Usually, we sit in a van outside if he’s having dinner, but we’re nearby,” Mason explained to Smerconish. “And there’s a couple reasons for that…. It’s a protective pool. If something terrible happens, if this nation comes under attack, [the] president’s going into lock-down. There needs to be a group of reporters nearby who can take his statements, who can convey to the rest of the world, independently, that the leader of the free world is fine, that the government is functioning, that we are handling the situation. Americans need to know this. There are worst-case scenarios.”

She went on, “Or, alternately, if something happens to the president, we need to be able to convey the information — where he’s going, what’s happening to him, updates. … You can’t leave the world in the dark about stuff like that. And we cannot rely on the federal government to give us reliable, timely information about fast-moving events that just — history has taught us, can’t do it. Not gonna do it.”

Mason also stressed the importance of the pool reports for historical purposes since they “go into the official record of the presidency, they are contained in the National Archives.” She explained how the pool captures and records “little details that, in the moment, don’t always seem like much” but after the fact “really help the pieces fall into place.”

History proves that sometimes the most routine events end up as moments of unmatched significance.

“Think for example of 9/11. When [Pres.] George W. Bush was going to Florida just to read to a bunch of little kids. That wasn’t a newsworthy event, but the pool went with him. And 9/11 happened and that was a really important day. The [protective press] pool was sending out reports throughout the day of the president’s movements, what was happening, reassuring the world, ‘he is working, he is on the job.’ The White House didn’t put out any information for ages, the pool was doing that.”

Trump hasn’t been shy about calling out reporters for what he has deemed as unfair practices. He even banned some news outlets from following him on the trail, attending campaign rallies or tweeting criticism. But Mason has a message for Trump and his future press office.

“Reporters, they can take the heat, but the problem is when they can’t do their job,” Mason concluded.

The Michael Smerconish Show airs weekdays at 9 a.m. ET on SiriusXM P.O.T.U.S. (Ch. 124)

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

For a free 30-day trial, check out siriusxm.com/freetrial/blog.