Makeover for White House pressroom

The White House Pressroom is in a bad state. For years it’s been the victim of neglect.. The furniture is in disrepair. Carpets are worn. The ceiling leaks. The place smells musty. It is in the words of many reporters a dump. But it’s going to change.

Now that the White House has a new Press Secretary., a former radio and television newsman Tony Snow, whose personality and cut-and-thrust , is winning the daily briefings a much bigger audience, the press room is about to have a long-awaited makeover. Starting next week engineers are moving in to renovate and rebuild the Press room. For some months the reporters who cover the White House will have to work from premises across the street – a move that some journalists view with suspicion. They wonder if it’s not a move to get them out of White House for good. They have been reassured by Snow they will be back by next year.

The biggest change in the renovated Press room will be what is being called a “video wall” – a super screen on which photographs and other illustrations will be displayed, and hopefully be shown on television around the country and the world. The hope is to make the daily Press briefings more interesting. Charts and graphics its hoped will make the briefings easier for an audience to understand.

In fact, since Snow’s appointment the briefing have had more coverage. Apart from getting more time on television . clips have started appearing on websites. Snow has been complimented on the way he handles some of the more difficult newsmen and women. Recently, in an exchange with Hearst columnist Helen Thomas who at 85 is the dean of the White House Press corps, he accused her of “pestering the teacher” with her repeated interruptions. She didn’t take kindly to the rebuke – but most of the other correspondents quietly agreed.

The renovations will, it is claimed, make the briefing room more modern, with wider more comfortable seats, microphones and Internet access for all the correspondents. Will the changes make the Press conferences more acceptable? Will it help President Bush get his viewpoint and messages over to the public? Everyone will just have to wait and see.

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