Woo-hoo! It's a happy St. Patrick's Day indeed for Helen Thomas, who was just officially re-awarded her front row seat in the White House Briefing Room after it had been rudely snatched away last month, owing to the combination of fewer seats in the newly-refurbished briefing room (7 seats per rows for 7 rows instead of 6 seats per row for 8 rows) and the fact that both Fox and CNN had been agitating for a front-row seat. Instead of picking between them, Thomas was booted.But now booted no more! Today the White House Correspondent's Association decided that Thomas' pride of place in the front row — 46 years and counting — would be appropriately honored:
As the dean of the White House press corps, Helen is an institution. First with United Press International and now as a White House columnist for Hearst newspapers, Helen has covered every president since John Kennedy.
Congratulations for finally figuring that out, guys — better late than never.
Meanwhile, whither that lone front-row seat? Who gets it, Fox or CNN? We'd keep you in suspense except that our headline gave it away: CNN was awarded the seat based, it seems, on seniority: "27 years of covering The White House." Fox only just celebrated its 10-year anniversary this past November, so the seniority metric is an easy one to apply, though the WHCA did note that CNN had made the cut "also for the "resources it brings to the in-town and travel pool," which we guess means Fox needs to beef up somewhere. Memo below; thanks to FishbowlDC for the intel!
TO: White House Correspondents' Association
RE: White House Briefing Room
DATE: March 16, 2007
The White House Correspondents' Association met today to review plans for the renovated West Wing Briefing Room and the seating assignments. The new briefing room will consist of 49 seats: 7 rows and 7 seats per row. In the old briefing room, we had 8 rows and 6 seats per row. This new configuration required us to make several adjustments to the seating arrangement, which is a White House Correspondents' Association responsibility.
As a board, we decided to move CNN to the first row. This decision was based on CNN's 27 years of covering The White House, as well as the resources it brings to the in-town and travel pool, and its daily presence at the briefings. In addition, the board agreed to honor a previous commitment by our association to maintain Helen Thomas' seat in the first row. As the dean of the White House press corps, Helen is an institution. First with United Press International and now as a White House columnist for Hearst newspapers, Helen has covered every president since John Kennedy.
Every news organization that had a seat in the old briefing room will have a seat in the new briefing room, and these seating assignments only affect the Brady Briefing Room. The White House, however, will continue to determine seating assignments for all presidential news conferences. We expect to move back to the West Wing this June. Look for additional updates on the briefing room project in the weeks ahead.