The White House Correspondents Association “represents the White House press corps in its dealings with the administration on coverage-related issues,” the WHCA Web site says. Spearheading that duty is the WHCA president — currently Jennifer Loven, who covers 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for the Associated Press.
What does the duty involve? “As president of the association, you’re the go-to person between the White House and the reporters,” past-president Steve Scully of C-Span tells WHCInsider. (Loven declined to talk.)
“You mediate on issues like travel, or seating, on just about everything,” Scully continues. “And you really have to ride herd on the White House to get answers on anything that might come up.”
If anyone can get answers, it’s likely Loven. As NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd recently told WHCInsider, “Jennifer Loven decides when the briefings begin and end. [White House press secretary] 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.”
In Hollywood parlance, Loven has juice.
“She is not just president of the association,” Todd said, “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.”
Still, there are pressures to handle, such as the first time a POTUS attends a White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
“This is a critical year, because there’s a brand new president, you assume that he will come in the spirit of the evening and give great uplifting remarks,” former WHCA president Ann Compton tells WHCInsider. “The hardest thing that Jennifer had to do was hire entertainment for the evening, and despite the recession, the tables are absolutely sold out. In fact, somebody asked me if I could get tickets and I said ‘Maybe in Rockville.'”
As it is in most news organizations, the White House beat is “a very high-prestige post within the AP,” a former longtime AP staffer tells WHCInsider. “Very often the White House correspondent stays administration after administration while the new kids who rode the victor’s campaign bus get added to the White House staff as a reward and to take advantage of their contacts.”