Elections usher in more than a new White House resident. It’s a time when the networks tap their new White House correspondent. For NBC, the highly regarded political analyst and editor Chuck Todd now occupies the NBC seat in the White House Briefing Room. While less than a mile away from his old perch at the Watergate as editor in chief of the Hotline, a back room backbencher of much political importance. WHCInsider talked with Todd about his much more public role. (He received an expensive old-fashioned shaving kit from a viewer when he won the NBC White House chair). Todd won’t comment on rumors he will be getting his own interview show on MSNBC, but he proudly shares anecdotes of 5-year-old Margaret and 2-year-old Harrison.
Q. What surprised you most about being a White House Correspondent?
A. The lack of physical access inside the White House. The high irony is we connect the two buildings, the White House to the West Wing. The folks in the white house get to decide where you sit, where you go. It is not new to this White House, it’s a every modern White House that’s controlling.
Q. Compare Obama campaign access vs. The White House?
A. The White House is more open and transparent than the campaign but only because you cannot run the White House in a tight circle of just five people.
Q. How about your transition into this reporter role?
A. I had a lot of real frustration. I don’t think Ana Maria Cox got it right about getting rid of the White House Correspondents. We still have a real value, but you have a lot of the good reporting outside the White House. It is easier to report from outside the White House.
Q. How do the daily press briefings work?
A. Jennifer Loven, President of the White House Correspondents Association, decides when the briefings begin and end. Robert Gibbs knows. When it appears the pertinent questions of the day have been asked and everybody has gotten a shot she closes it down.
Q. Tell us about Jennifer Loven, who is now such a public figure especially to cable and internet viewers of the daily briefings.
A. She is not just president of the association; she is also chief AP reporter. She and her AP colleagues are probably the most influential reporters out there. She can probably change the mind of a New York Times editor faster than their own reporter.
Q. What did you think about radio host (now MSNBC show anchor) Ed Schultz sitting in the front room at both press conferences?
A. They can invite whoever they want he has been in the front row twice [now three times], but he has not been asked to ask a question.
Q. What about Sam Stein and other bloggers?
A. The reporters that are over here all the time and devote all the resources. We have earned the right; we have invested the time and resources. For the big 6-7 of us if we miss something it is our jobs! We have to get the story.
Q. Why is Helen Thomas in the center front seat?
A. It has her name on the plaque on the chair. The WHCA decided it.
Q. How much pressure is there on you when you get a scoop or news nugget? How do you decide where to take it? Do you run to get on cable or the web?
A. I still write up a note to alert everyone so it’s writing first.
Q. Robert Gibbs clothing –what is your take?
A. Clearly someone has told him he looks good in pastels. He looks like he is wearing all the Easter M and M colors.