WHCA Remodeling Plans: Not Dinner-Related

The letter from the White House Correspondents Association president Ron Hutcheson about the remodeling of the WH briefing room (after the jump) tends to prove that the whole "most anticipated social event of the year" aspect of the WHCA dinner is pretty much a combination of dumb luck and lack of other options. We are reminded that much of the WHC's lot is dull, and that committees are the underemployed's method for killing time between scandals. (Drinking also works.) One intriguing note: The WHCA will be soliciting members' opinions (via a questionnaire) about what they would like to see in the new and improved briefing room.

How about a real briefing?

Letter follows.

From: WHCA

Sent: Thursday, April 21, 2005 3:30 PM

To: william koenig; Wendy Dawson; Wendla Wilkinson; Wendell Goler; Wayne Partlow; Vija Udenans; Tsutomu Ishiai; Thomas Seem; Thomas DeFrank; Tetsuya Jitsu; Terence Hunt; Tamara Lipper; Takaaki Abe; Susan Page; Stewart Powell; steve scully; steve holland; Stephen Koff; stepanie smith; Scott Stearns; Sarah Scott; Ryan Lizza; Ryan Donmoyer; ron hutcheson; Roland Watson; Roger Runningen; Robert Hillman; richard wolffe; Richard Tomkins; Richard Sammon; Richard Keil; Richard Dunham; Raimund Loew; Raghubir Goyal; Plante, Bill; peter wallsten; Peter Maer; peter baker; Paula Wolfson; Paula Cruickshank; Paul Richards; Patrick Ryan; Olivier Knox; norah o"donnell; Nancy Ognanovich; Miles Benson; Melissa Charbonneau; Cooper, Matthew - Time U.S.; Marsha Mercer; mark smith; mark silva; Mark Knoller; Marc Sandalow; Llewellyn King; Linda Gasparello; Linda Feldmann; Laurin Keto; larry shaw; Kenneth Walsh; Kenneth Bazinet; Ken Fireman; Keith Koffler; kate mccarthy; Kasper Zeuthen; Julie Mason; Julian Borger; Joseph Curl; Jonathan Decker; Jon Sawyer; Jon Garcia; John Farrell; John Dimsdale; Dickerson, John - Time U.S.; Joe Marquette; jim angle; Jennifer Loven; Jeff Zeleny; Jean-Louis Doublet; Carney, James - Time U.S. ; james lakely; James Harding; jacqueline calmes; Jacobo Goldstein; Holly Rosenkrantz; Heidi Przybyla; Gregory Clugston; Greg Mathieseon; Greg Hitt; Gerald Seib; George E. Condon, Jr.; Gary Martin; Finlay Lewis; ellen ratner; Elizabeth Bumiller; edwin chen; Doug Mills; Don Gonyea; Dena Bunis; Debra Riechmann; Deborah Orin; Deborah Howell; David Westphal; David Shott; David Jackson; David Greene; David Cook; Dana Milbank; Courtney Wells; Connie Lawn; Colleen Wordock; Charles Lewis; Berger, Catherine; Caroline Marie Horrigan; Carl Leubsdorf; Caren Bohan; bob deans; Bill Sammon; Bennett Roth; April Ryan; Ann McFeatters; Ann Compton; Andrew Sawka; Andrew Miga; andrei sitov; Alexis Simendinger; holly bailey

Subject: White House Press Area Remodeling

Dear Colleagues,

We want to share with you what we know about administration plans to remodel the White House press area.

First, deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin has offered his assurances that we will continue to have the same space we use today. The idea is to improve the existing space, not shrink it or move us out. He also made it clear in a meeting on Tuesday that the press corps will have a lot of influence in the timing and the scope of the work.

Mark Smith of AP Radio, president-elect at the WHCA, will be taking the lead on this for the association. He intends to distribute a questionnaire within the next few days to solicit your ideas on how to proceed. He will also appoint committees to oversee aspects of the job. All media will be represented. Our goal is to make this process as transparent as possible. We want everyone to have a chance to offer his or her views.

Hagin would like to start work in July and finish in three months. We told him we are not sure that timetable is realistic, but we withheld judgment on that for now.  He said he is not wedded to the idea of doing it this summer. This is still in the very preliminary stage. We have no cost estimates or anything close to a design. We have asked the White House to come up with some preliminary workspace suggestions and cost estimates that we can share with the entire press corps as soon as we get them. We ' re not sure when that will be.

Here ' s what we know at this point:

This would be a substantial upgrade of the briefing room and the workspaces, both upstairs and down. We anticipate better storage space, better briefing room seats and better work areas, plus new heating/air conditioning and lighting. The White House also wants to look at WiFi service and other technical improvements that could help print and broadcast reporters, as well as photographers.  Hagin said he would explore the possibility of using the pool area beneath the briefing room for storage. He also agreed to look into a new storage shed near the stakeout site. The old one was removed.

GSA would have prime responsibility (and bear the cost) for everything outside the television, radio and wire service booths. Booth inhabitants would be encouraged to update as the rest of the place is modernized, but that is up to them. The expenses for individual workspaces would be the responsibility of individual news organizations.

The proposed July start date is intended to take advantage of the July 4 break and the August break to minimize the disruption for us. During construction, we would relocate to the White House conference center on Jackson Place. Our facilities there would probably be an upgraded version of a White House travel filing center (including the presence of some press office staff). McClellan would brief at the conference center. A daily pool would be on duty at the West Wing, in the (temporarily vacant) lower press office.

The construction work would be a "warehouse project" that would not start until all of the construction material was in hand. That way the project would not stall while waiting for deliveries.

It may not be possible to pull this off this year. But if we do it right, we could end up with a much nicer work area at the White House. We ' ll need your advice and help as this moves forward.


Ron Hutcheson

President, WHCA

Mark Smith

President-elect, WHCA


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