Tommy Christopher is a columnist and White House/media reporter for Mediaite.com, proprietor of DailyDose.us and Asylum's resident gonzo journalist.
As with any endeavor, covering White House press briefings comes with its own set of specific challenges, pitfalls and fauxs pas. In the event that any of you ever find yourselves working in the Brady Briefing Room, I feel it is my duty to enumerate some of these.
Recently I was, again, frustrated in my attempt to track down the president's poker preferences
, but I did manage to commit two such gaffes. Rather than hang my head in shame, I prefer to use this, as the Prez would say, as "a teachable moment
." Read on, to learn from five mistakes made by the pros in the White House press corps.
First, here's my recent double-play:
1. The "Pit Check"
Look, my hand was already up, it was a hot day, and I just wanted to be sure. The good news is that my Axe Bullet did the job. The bad news: My maneuver was caught on camera.
The lesson here: Always be conscious of the cameras. There are lots of them, just waiting for you to scratch or sniff the wrong thing.
2. Mute Your Frakkin' Phone!
This is particularly embarrassing for me, because a few months ago, there was a cell-phone-plagued briefing, and I was a total prick about it
. Gibbs actually confiscated one reporter's phone (John Gizzi's), but you won't believe what CBS News's Bill Plante did later in that same briefing:
After that, my friends started calling me at every briefing, trying to catch me unmuted. Yesterday, they succeeded.
3. Nobody Puts Major in the Corner
This next clip, featuring Fox News's Major Garrett, underscores an underlying tension at briefings. The reporters in the front two rows see it as their duty to have long, leisurely chats with Gibbs, while the rest of us hope there's enough time left to dole us out a few crumbs. Here, Major throws a minor fit when he gets flagged for belaboring. Start watching at the 30:40 mark.
4. Keep It Safe
The brave new world of online journalism means wires, lots of wires. Since the briefing room is set up like the coach cabin of a 767, you've got to be careful where you plug yourself in.
I found this out about a month ago, as I carried my laptop down the aisle, wrapped my foot around the cord, and faceplanted. Luckily, I saved the laptop. Unluckily, there were no cameras to capture the moment. I also have a scar as a reminder of my White House knee-owie.
5. Bring an Umbrella
In D.C., the weather can change on a dime. In April, I found out the hard way, as I ignored threatening skies and left my umbrella in the car when I went to cover a Tea Party protest
across from the White House. After two hours in the rain, even Gibbs took pity on my drowned-rat appearance: