|To Be or Not to Be… in the Defense Pool System |
To Be or Not to Be… in the Defense Pool System
Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense: DoD News Briefing: Rear Admiral Craig R. Quigley, DASD PA, Friday, November 9, 2001. Meeting the Bureau Chiefs.
Quigley: I'm Rear Admiral Craig Quigley. I work for Torie. Thank you all for coming this morning once again.
Our goal here this morning is to try to figure out a fair and predictable and as little contention as we can manner of selecting news organizations to travel with the Secretary when he flies on foreign trips. Much less of an issue on domestic trips, obviously, because most of your news organizations are represented in the cities that he would most likely visit, but it is an issue on foreign trips.
For starters, let me say thank you very much go the very large number of you that sent me e-mails or faxes over the last couple of days with suggestions. I'm very tempted to say this is a great idea, let's do it, but would very much like to hear your views on this.
One person mentioned that if you come up with a solution where 90 percent of the news organizations are pleased, 90 percent of the time you should declare victory and walk away, and I suspect that that's probably true.
But the goal here is to try to come up with something that is predictable, and I should really start there, so that a news organization knows that okay, on the next trip we're going to be on the traveling party or we're not, and then can plan and budget and allocate people and resources accordingly.
We also need to have an end state that is scalable because if the Secretary would travel on a G-5, a Gulfstream G-5 which has a total of only 13 seats on the whole plane excluding the air crew, then you're going to take some number of staff with him and that could leave as few as three, four, five total seats. Do we want to do that and address that in the form of a pool arrangement if it's that small? But if it's the 757 and you're going overseas for several days to several different locations, maybe 10. Maybe 13, something in that ball park. So it needs to be scalable as well.
We always try to argue, basically, with the trip planners for the maximum number of seats that we can get on whatever the plane might be, but there is a limit, a reasonable limit. When that number comes then we just say okay fine, that's the number. It might be 10, it might be 13, it might be somewhere between the two. So if it's a 13 size trip, again, you all should understand that if it's a 13 size trip this is who will go; if it's a five, this is who will go; what are the ground rules; is it unilateral; is it pool; things of that sort.
So let me just start off by putting a generic proposal on the table for discussion. That is that discounting the exact numbers for a moment, and we'll just have to jimmy those up and down when we get a little bit further down in the process, but my proposal would be to consider that a specific breakout of number of seats on the plane go to specific types of news organizations. You've got television, you've got radio, you've got long format, print, you've got wires, you've got wires, perhaps a still photographer. Not sure that we would need to make a space for that. Would like to hear your views. So we'd have broken out by medium, if you would, with a specific number of seats per medium, and that would be -- Then within that medium you would work out some sort of a rotation.
Now two options, again, I got e-mails from some of you and just my own thoughts as well, to work out a rotation. Pick a number. I have four seats for long format print. Within that I draw numbers out of a hat, or I have a specific rotation amongst a particular set of long format print news organizations. That is a predictable way. If the drawing out of the hat is the way then we would do that as quickly as possible once a trip is announced so you all would know how to plan. If not, then if it would be rotational, then whatever the trip is you still know that you're on or you're not on the next trip, whatever that format may be.
So let's start there and hear your thoughts, please.
Voice: -- pool? Is there going to be print pool reporters?
Quigley: That's a good question too. In my mind if you have the 13-seat option, let's say, then I would say no on the pool. I would say unilateral. If I'm down on the G-5 and I've only got maybe a couple or three or for or five seats total, I would be more inclined to pool. I think that would be an unlikely event, but I sure can't rule it out. If he's going to go overseas he's going to take the big plane. He's just got to for fuel and food and working conditions and stuff like that. So I think by far more often it's going to be the larger number.
Voice: So no one on the plane would be pool.
Quigley: In the larger version, unless you want to count, and we would -- Again, someone else suggested that of the seats specifically allocated for news organizations there would be not in that mix an AFIS writer. And that is Armed Forces Information Service. It's our own internal information folks. Now they would write stories as all of you do, and then would file those on DefenseLink: http://www.defenselink.mil/. That would be fed to base and station newspapers around the globe and stuff like that. We would set that aside as not in amongst the seats that would be allocated to your news organizations.
So pool in the sense of those guys that write for us, for the Department of Defense, that is very much a pool product. It gets filed on DefenseLink and you're free to use it if you wish.
Voice: Is that currently a seat, is AFIS always on these trips?
Quigley: I don't remember a recent trip where there has not been --
Voice: -- the last five. This last one --
Quigley: Okay. Most of the time the answer is yes.
Bill Gertz: If I could make a couple of comments about the contents of this. Bill Gertz with the Washington Times.
We've traveled for years and a lot of these -- This has really not been a problem too much in the past when there wasn't a war on, and in fact they had a hard time getting people to go on a lot of trips. Obviously when we're at war it has become a lot more, there's been a lot more interest.
I've been frustrated about getting on. We had traveled regularly and then in the beginning, and I've already expressed my frustrations about that, but I think, I'm kind of against this idea of any kind of a committee or a rotational thing, and I think the most important thing, there really needs to be wire service representation for most of us, most of the news organizations that's really a fall-back if you can't go on one of these trips. The idea of a rotation could also limit the places that we'd want to go.
For instance at my newspaper we're interested in Asia so we would have a tendency to want to select Asia trips as opposed to Europe or South America or other places like that. But these trips, I kind of put them as they're a combination of schmooze and news -- sometimes more or less than the other. It's the access that people are interested in, the ability to be close by, and also if there was something extraordinarily newsworthy that people would be representative.
I think that a pool system also, unless it's a very small situation, is not really a good idea. I think a wire service would be better than a pool.
But I just wanted to give my input as far as that.
I think the important thing is to try to get some fairness into a system, but it's not going to be fair all the time I'm sure. But like I say, the stricter it gets or the more rigid it gets, it's going to make the problem worse in some respects.
Quigley: Bill just started off with something that I should have started off with at the very beginning.
When you speak, would you please say your name and news organizations that you represent and we'd like to add that to the transcription and the posting of this thing. I'm glad you did that. Thank you.
Ed Tobias: I'm Ed Tobias with AP Radio, and I think the sole radio representative here, but we have talked amongst ourselves and I believe I can speak for the rest of the radio networks.
We applaud setting aside a limited amount of seats for each medium, assuming of course that radio would be one those media that would have a seat available for us.
We believe that under that system that we could probably self-rotate through that seat and so serve our needs. It's important to us that radio be represented as a class on the trip because if it's not those radio networks that are not attached to a television network have no source of not only Q&A with the reporter, but no source of audio from the trip, particularly if it's [all behind].
Media General News: -- Media General News.
I'd like to touch on something that Bill said and emphasize that of the seats you've got there that one of them be a wire service, the Associated Press. Because for many of us, particularly the Media General chain and other chains, the AP is our pool. That represents us on trips like this. So whatever system you come up with, we would feel it should be just a given that one of those seats is the Associated Press because that's our representative in many of these cases.
Francis Kohn: Francis Kohn from the French News Service.
Of course I strongly disagree with you. I think that we have to look at this not only for the U.S. news organization but for the whole world. This is of course, of interest for everybody and I agree about the absolute need to have a wire service, then the discussion would be should they all be included, the three main wire services -- AP, Reuters, and AFP. But having just one wire service would be absolutely unacceptable.
Ralph Yarding: Ralph Yarding with Reuters. I would support that. One wire service may get you some coverage, but if you include the three that have traveled regularly over the last few years, that is Reuters, AFP and AP, you reach everybody. Not just in the U.S. but worldwide, and you reach people immediately.
Part of the problem on the most recent trip, there were a couple of stories that came out of that, the Tajikistan story and the comments the Secretary made on the way back about extracting the anti-Taliban leader that certain outlets that were on the plane had. Had the wires been on that, everybody would have had it. Otherwise people are left to chase that a day later.
The other thing, I think Torie made a comment yesterday at the seminar about the need to communicate better worldwide. If you have the three wires that have traveled regularly on that plane, you're going everywhere and you're going in multiple languages, and we publish in 23 languages including Arabic. I think the idea that the news gets out pretty much to everybody, and it is basically a worldwide pool if you include those three wires.
Tompkins: (inaudible) Tompkins from UPI. I would have to insist that UPI be included on any pool. We cover the DoD every day, we're here every day, we always have been, and if you're going to have a foreign news service which basically AFP is and Reuters, even though you're incorporated here, you'd have to have UPI which is a U.S. agency.
Yarding: I'd just add to that, the Admiral mentioned in the beginning about (inaudible) contention. I didn't come over here to punch people in the nose, but UPI, and I used to work for them, does not have the reach. It hasn't had for some time that the others do. I think that has to be taken into consideration. And if you look again at the people who made the commitment over a series of years, and for Reuters it goes back to the early '80s, traveling virtually full time. I think we've missed a handful of trips over the last 16 or 17 years. I think that needs to be taken into consideration. And Reuters, while we're headquartered in London as is APTN, we're an international news agency. We operate in 150 countries.
Tompkins: So are we.
Jill Abramson: I'm Jill Abramson with the New York Times. I think an important point is while I appreciate your desire to be fair and please the 90 percent, there is a small group here at this table which, going back to the '80s, we actually going back to the '60s almost always have traveled, and that's a public service commitment through slow times and busy times. And if you treat everybody on an equal basis I think actually that isn't necessarily the fairest way. You have to -- the people we have to worry about being fair to are the people of our country and the world who need to be informed about this war. The secretary and the administration want the message to reach the widest and most influential portion of the community, and there are news organizations here who have uniquely fulfilled what I do view as a public service commitment to covering the secretary of defense when he travels. The majority of people here at this meeting are not in that group.
Quigley: Bill Gertz made a very good point a few minutes ago that I'd like to add one thing. You said it is even more of an issue now since the war started, Bill. And I would add one other thing to that. Every secretary of defense is different, of course, and some travel more often than others. Secretary Rumsfeld is not a frequent traveler so there are fewer opportunities to travel with him. He spends a lot of his time right here in Washington, D.C. He thinks that's very important. So that just kind of adds fuel to the fire, I guess, so I'd throw that in there as a comment.
Shannon Williams: I'm Shannon Williams with Gannett News Service. We have 97 papers around the country, some of the biggest ones in the country as well as USA Today. We feel very strongly that AP should have a standing seat on any travel that takes place because all of our papers do receive the Associated Press wire. And of course Sandy can speak better than I can about the international reach as well because it is a pretty long reach.
Johnson: [Eight] hundred subscribers overseas.
Shannon Williams: Yeah, so we feel very strongly at least domestically that we really need to have AP on there.
My boss, Caesar Andrew, who's the editor of Gannett News Service also has just become the president of the APME, or the Associated Press Managing Editors, and I think you all received a note from him yesterday. Also on behalf of the APME members around the country which is like 1500 or something I think newspapers who feel very strongly about AP (inaudible). So I did want to put in that because that means that we don't have to worry about the travel. We know we can rely on our papers getting the coverage.
Likewise, one thing that will come up later, since we are affiliated with USA Today, we're owned by the same company, and we do work together, we do put out USA Today copy on our wire as well, so we would support whatever USA Today is requesting in terms of coverage ability But AP is the main one --
Francis Kohn: -- again. I know what AP represents for the U.S. media. I am glad to say we also, AFP has USA Today as a client among others. So I don't think this is really the point. If we take a poll here among the U.S. media, everybody is going to say AP. But what my colleague said, we have to look at all over the world. That should be your point of view. I'm not here to give you a drawing.
But, and all the wires here, and that maybe should be something that we discuss right away, should we, because that would be I think the main problem for the wires. Are we going to have a rotation? Or are we going to have all the wires included? A wire being a pool for all over the world.
Clark Hoyt: I'm Clark Hoyt from Knight Ridder. Craig, as you know, I sent you an e-mail and suggested that out of any allotment there be two wire seats, one of which would always go to the Associated Press, and one of which would rotate among the other wires. Recognizing the arguments about a worldwide audience, but also recognizing that the Associated Press is the one universal news service for the U.S. media, all parts of the media.
Jack Farrell: Jack Farrell from the Boston Globe.
Can I just ask a question? If you gave the people who have always traveled a seat, how many other seats would there be left over? Do you know?
Quigley: I'd have to think that one through in a little bit more time than here. I guess if you made me guess right now I'd say a couple or three. Two or three.
Jack Farrell: No more than four.
Quigley: Yeah. In that ballpark. I'm sure I'm off by a little but I'm in the ballpark.
Jack Farrell: I haven't done Pentagon reporting for a long time, but I know in the White House the people who paid consistently to travel consistently were known as regulars and they were the ones who got to go when the size of the press corps began to shrink.
Quigley: I would tell you it should go without saying that most of your news organizations have committed to coverage of the Department of Defense to some extent for a long time. And there's a lot of other news organizations in the world, other than those that are represented in this room today. And when it's crunch time, again like Bill Gertz says, when this nation goes to war all of a sudden we become real popular. And if there are at that point a huge increase in the number of news organizations that all of a sudden start covering the Pentagon the preference, I will tell you very clearly, would be for the organizations that have committed to cover the DoD for a long time on a very nearly daily basis, sometimes more than one correspondent at a time, as opposed to the ones who just want to catch the story de jeur.
Voice: I think that gives you the benefit of having the core at least of a system that works in wartime or peace.
Voice: Rather than having to blow up and change the system every time something changes.
Voice: Is there any discussion or would you consider looking at systems that are already in place? Jack mentioned the White House. They have a system where three major wires go and it's sort of a combination of unilateral and pool coverage, and perhaps --
Voice: But they have a bigger complement of seats as well.
Voice: They have 13, I think.
Voice: I think it's more than that.
Voice: I'm talking about on Air Force One.
Quigley: On Air Force One, you're correct, there are 13. Then there's the separate press plane. I talked to Gordon Jonrow over at the White House as to what process they use as well as Cynthia Church over at State Department as well. They are kind of where we are right now, trying to develop a system that is predictable an equitable and kind of covers all the bases. So it was both very good phone calls and comparing notes and thoughts and so.
Voice: Clark, just to follow up on your point, who would you define as the wires for the purpose of the rotation under your proposal?
Hoyt: Well, there's a definition of wires in the DoD National Media Pool organization, and that's one definition that could be used.
Kathy Morris: Kathy Morris, Dallas Morning News.
A few points, on the Air Force One rotation, newspapers, and not just the largest three or four or five are represented on a rotation basis on the Air Force One pool.
Secondly, I think the consideration is those of us who participate in the defense pool system. I think that's a consideration. There are many ways to cover the Pentagon and we do it here on a daily basis and we also participate in the pool organization.
Gerry Seib: Gerry Seib with the Wall Street Journal.
Having covered as a reporter both the White House and the Pentagon I don't think the two situations are really at all comparable. I mean the White House pool exists in a rarified environment in which there is always a press plane. It is rotating because everybody travels with the White House all the time, and because it is explicitly a pool and you're not in the situation where you're trying to create a pool. I just don't think there is a parallel situation.
I think in this environment, I think it's probably naive, I think this conversation probably suggests it's naive to think we can somehow agree on what a fair system is. I think the reality is that's always going to be the decision that you guys are going to have to make. Taking into account your interests as well as our interests.
And I guess I would second what Jill said, that I think at the end of the day, I assume from your point of view and also in some definition of fairness you're going to look for reach for people who have large reach and who can cover the most ground. That probably I think includes the Associated Press for most people in this room, but it probably also includes certain other news organizations, and I think fairness in this environment is probably a definition that you're more easily able to reach than we can collectively. But I don't, I just think as a general proposition I don't think that there's a White House parallel here that makes a lot of sense. I just think we're talking about apples and oranges.
Quigley: My phone calls with both State and the White House I thought were both very interesting and informative, but you cannot draw perfect parallels in either organization for that matter, so that was pretty clear from the very beginning of the conversation.
And to follow up on what you just said too, Gerry, at the end of the day we're not going to not let you out of the room until we have a deal today. We do want to hear your views today, but we will not shirk our responsibility. At the end of the day this is our responsibility to define how this process will work, and we readily accept that.
Owen Ullmann: Owen Ullmann from USA Today.
To put this a little bit in historical context, this issue has come and gone probably over at least the last 20-25 years. There are busy times when everyone wants to travel, there are times when it's not a very big story and a lot of people do not want to travel. The only organization that probably has traveled consistently with Defense and State, which is going through the same process right now as you probably know, Admiral, is the Associated Press.
So I think we have to agree that the Associated Press is guaranteed a seat.
Beyond that --
Voice: I'm sorry, but that's just not true. AP certainly, but you talk for your organization. AFP --
Owen Ullmann: For the last 25 years I've --
Voice: -- the pool --
Owen Ullmann: -- wanted to say that I've traveled with State and others and the AP is the only one --
Voice: -- on the pools at the Pentagon --
Owen Ullmann: Beyond that we can argue and say we want to have seats and keep the system the way we have it now. The parallel to the White House is there used to be battles royal over who goes on Air Force One. They worked up a rotation and it is comparable, Gerry, to the point that while there is a press charter, a lot of issues were worked out by a correspondents association to have a level playing field that pretty much satisfied most people. I think that's what we need to do here.
I think it could be done, as you said, Admiral, by trying to have rotation among the different news media, making distinctions for Jill's point that some news organizations have invested a lot of money and time over the years traveling during peace time as well as war; taking into account the need to represent foreign wire services, major newspapers, regional newspapers. There has got to be a fair way of dividing up those seats.
Now we can all go back and suggest plans and there could be flexibility, but I think we have to recognize the current system of everyone screaming when they don't get on a trip is nuts. And I think --
Quigley: I agree with you on that point.
Owen Ullmann: Everyone arguing over well we have a right to go and we have a right to go. It would behoove us all to figure out what is the best way to represent all our interests so that at least most of the time, if not all the time, we are satisfied.
I think we also have to keep in mind that traveling with the secretary is not about news coverage. And Bill Gertz made the point. It's really more about schmooze than news. All of us, if we want, can cover most of those news events on the ground where the secretary arrives. We can have a pool system. Anything he says off the record or on background or on the record is provided to everyone. We can have that as a standard rule, so that no information is denied anyone. It's really the opportunity to spend time, face time, develop relationships, invest in longer term enterprise coverage that this debate is really about. So we should be kind of honest about that.
If we all get on these trips most of the time that we want, I think that that would work to every news organization's benefit.
Quigley: Can I follow up on a comment that Ed Tobias made a little bit ago? If you start with the assumption and let's just start there for no better reason than it's a place to start, that there will be more than one slot for a particular medium -- radio, wires, what have you. Within that two or three or four seat allocation, would you all prefer a rotation or a self-selection each time?
Voice: -- self-select. We would select among ourselves.
Quigley: And there doesn't have to be unanimity of the process, either. If radio agrees amongst themselves that self-selection is the way to go, okay. There's no rule that would then say that long format print would have to have the same sort of selection. So that's something to think about.
Tim Aubry: I'm Tim Aubry with Reuter Pictures.
You mentioned early in the same vein as Ed Tobias, the wire service has talked. We would very much like to see as a medium a still photographer on this pool. Informally the three wires have agreed that as much as we'd like to have all 13 seats, we know that's not realistic. But we would get by, if we could get one seat we would rotate it among the wires and we would govern that ourselves and make sure --
Quigley: Among wire photographers.
Tim Aubry: Wire photographers.
Bill Gertz: I would argue for as much flexibility as possible because sometimes the nature of the trip will determine whether or not there will be an ability to put various mediums and get a benefit out of it. So I would argue for self selection over any kind of a rotation. Again, rotation, your rotation is you get to go to Argentina rather than China, I would think it would be better for self selection.
Quigley: That last comment was Bill Gertz from Washington Times.
Clark Hoyt: Clark Hoyt again.
Two things. We would prefer a rotation than self selection. And secondly, although still photography is part of my responsibility too, and therefore I hesitate to say what I'm about to say, but recognizing the essential truth of what Owen just said a few minutes ago, I really don't think photography ought to be part of this, and there should not be a seat for still photo.
Tim Aubry: If I could answer that. I would like to say that especially coming in with the domestic stuff, we can do that. As this stuff moves forward into the environments of the military, access to a lot of these places, especially places where I suspect the Secretary will be in the next two months, is not places that are easily accessible for still photographers. I will try and get copies, I thought I had a copy to take with me today, one of the last, most recent trips the secretary took, not this last one, there were still photographers on there including (inaudible), some very, very nice images of the secretary at work on the airplane and some of the other things that would be very useful for us trying to show what else happened. There's a lot of reporting that goes on, there's an awful loud cry for pictures of all the stuff that he does, and I think it's access that we can't find on the ground all the time. The security has tightened around the secretary on all these traveling trips. To be able to try and walk our way in with people on the ground is not always easy to do. So I would make a push to try and keep a still photographer included as a medium.
Nicky Walton Sanford: Nicky Walton Sanford, the Chicago Tribune.
Has the notion of adding a press plane at least during wartime been completely ruled out?
Quigley: No. But I will tell you that this secretary of defense, generally speaking, is not in favor of that. I can't rule it out because he hasn't ruled it out, but just generally speaking, his sense is that that -- He tries very hard to travel as slim as he can, both in staff and certainly in numbers of airplanes. So I would think it unusual, but I honestly can't rule it out.
Wendy Wilkinson: I'm Wendy Wilkinson with NBC. (inaudible) all five of the networks.
Again, the cry here is clearly for more than 12 or 13 seats. So again,I would go back to saying that these are unusual times and we are looking, every one who is at this table who has investments within covering the Department of Defense on a long term basis, as well as the international partnership that's going on within this nation and trying to get the news out, cries for more seats and more access within the media.
Kathy Morris: Kathy Morris again, Dallas Morning News.
(inaudible) within the newspaper category, there could be an accommodation for the large newspapers that travel all the time. There would be a second location of seats for major news organizations that have not traveled all the time.
It would probably break down so that all of the largest wouldn't go each time, but there would be more than one seat. Perhaps several allotted for them, but there would also be an allotment for a couple of newspapers that do not travel all the time. And that's possibly another category that would involve magazines or other organizations.
Quigley: Do we have any of the news magazines represented here today? Time, Newsweek, US News?
Voice: Have they ever asked to travel?
Quigley: Yes. Although it's not the norm.
Tom Seed: Tom Seed, CBS.
Just to make sure I understand, you have put on the table the idea of, or the question of rotation or self selection within each media group.
Tom Seed: Would you allow a system, assuming that you set aside X number of seats for each media group, would you allow some groups to self select and others to be rotated by you or by some lottery or whatever, so that you don't have a hard and fast rule that applies to everybody. If you've got one or two media groups who are interested in one system and one or two who are interested in the other.
Quigley: I can't see the down side. I don't know why there would have to be an imperative that one size fits all.
Wendy Wilkinson: Again Admiral, Wendy Wilkinson, I would say that this whole, there's the notion of X number of core seats and then there may be other seats that are rotational across the board. I don't know. But again, I really am not comfortable with the idea of trying to shrink our own access without pushing back to try and get more seats (inaudible) the press that are trying to cover this story, because it's not usual times, and there hasn't been anything like this in quite awhile.
For the networks, for the television networks. If there are more than one network reporter that would be represented on a given flight, would the networks agree to commonly pool a camera?
Voice: That's something we're still talking about and trying to (inaudible) meetings that you folks have had over the last few days.
Quigley: Meetings are us.
Voice: But that's something that we're discussing, because clearly as print reporters for newspapers are not particularly given to pooling their material, the networks don't necessarily take other correspondents from other networks and put them on the air. The most unique situation is, of course, the DoD media pool where everyone is reporting on behalf of the DoD media pool. That's really sort of like the only case where we put other people on the air. So that's something that we're still talking about.
Quigley: I guess I raise that as a separate issue because yours is the only -- well, still photography would be in that same category to a lesser extent, but you're the only medium that brings "stuff" and has to have room for the "stuff". And having --
Voice: -- stuff -- what stuff?
Quigley: Having four newspapers really results in four people and no stuff for the most part. Having four networks a very different calculus.
Voice: -- up to now. The last trip, you could have five entities and one stuff. (Laughter) It was not a pretty stuff, but it was a one stuff.
Voice: The question of the charter, which obviously would solve a short-term problem. What are the secretary's objections to a charter? Why would that be so difficult?
Quigley: I think philosophically he's in favor of traveling with smaller groups. Period. It's a philosophical bent I think more than anything else, of moving quickly, moving compactly from place to place on his trips. I think it's more that than any other single issue.
Voice: It doesn't seem like adding a charter is going to complicate his life that much and it would certainly solve the problem here where you have so many more people that want to travel on a short term basis.
Quigley: I think he's also mindful of the burden that it does place on the nations that he visits. They will feel responsible for your security. And despite whatever we may say, they will feel responsible for your security. It makes for a longer caravan, it makes for more police protection, there is an added cost, and I think he's sensitive to that as well. It might not necessarily be the tie-breaker, but it's an issue that goes into the equation.
Phil Dine: Phil Dine, St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Forgive me if you mentioned this at the very beginning, but could you say a little bit about the cost of these flights?
Quigley: I don't know what the cost will be on any given flight. It will depend on how many news organizations are represented on the flight. It will depend on the model of aircraft. There is a cost per flight hour of all of the types of aircraft that we fly, and you plug that into the equation so that's the cost to the government to fly that plane. And then that is then divided up by the number of seats that are taken up by individuals representing news organizations so it will vary. Although it's relatively known. If I can say, this model aircraft and this many seats, we can give an answer to the question. So it is predictable.
Voice: What is the current system for selecting people? For example, one time there was a trip, we weren't notified, I went and asked in the office why we didn't go, we said we weren't invited. The next time there was a trip, I asked Torie why we didn't get to go and she said you didn't ask to go. So it's not clear whether you have to ask or whether you're invited.
Quigley: That's exactly why we're here.
We had tried over the first few months of the new administration to come up with a -- many of you, not all, but many of you have expressed a particular desire to go on a trip if we're going to NATO, or to Asia, or to some other place in the world. So you kind of mentally file that away. Others have said I want to go anywhere, anytime. And then many others have not been on a trip for some period of time, so you try to say okay, this organization has gone the last two trips or three; this one hasn't gone at all; we should make a special effort to put that organization on this trip because they haven't gone in awhile. None of those seem to have worked very well, so we're trying to build a better mousetrap here.
Any other thoughts, issues that we haven't addressed yet? Because we'll go back and we will work this very quickly because that's fair to all of you. You need to know here's the plan, ladies and gentlemen, and this is the prediction as to how we'll go forward from here.
Voice: Could I ask if you added a couple more seats, would that solve the problem? Then you could rotate a couple of the regional papers and still get all the papers that want to go all the time and still get all the wires?
Quigley: That would be the clearest and certainly the simplest solution to that. But let me build an example.
I have the big plane. I have the 757 and I'm making a swing through several NATO nations in Europe, and then from there I'm going on to Moscow. The secretary is going to want to have staff support from the experts on his staff that know the most about the issues relevant to those nations or NATO or Russia for the entirety of that trip. That's going to result in a larger number of staff support personnel than a trip to Italy alone on a single subject at a single location. That would be a really small footprint as far as number of staff support because the issues would be fewer.
You could have, and I could see the numbers go up and down depending on the description of the trip itself, I would say, would describe it.
Voice: What's the largest number? Is 13 it or could it be --
Quigley: No. I think we had 20?
Voice: We've had 20 on a trip.
Quigley: The most recent trip I believe was 20.
Voice: I'd have to go back and look, but it was close to that.
Quigley: The most recent trip was last weekend, I guess, where he went from Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and India.
Voice: I think it was 10.
Quigley: Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong trip. I'm sorry. There was a recent trip, I'll put it that way, where it was 20. Two trips ago it was 20.
Voice: There's a Whiteman trip --
Quigley: The last one it was only 10. That's why I said at the very beginning we need a scalable number here.
What do you think about if we go down to as few as three or four or five, what do you think about the pool idea if that be the case? Wendy, I hear you, but --
Wendy Wilkinson: I don't think --
Quigley: We get so small that there is no equitable way to do that.
Wendy Wilkinson: I think the networks, I would have to talk to them, but I think television folks would agree that the wires -- There needs to be a core within that somehow. So there is a wire presence on a trip of three to four. There has to be somebody within that, and then it gets real interesting.
Susy McVee: Susy McVee, Hearst Newspapers.
Just to reinforce that if there is a small number we think that AP should have certainly a permanent seat. And we talked about the reach here in the United States and around the world, and it seems to me that around the world, if I heard Sandy correctly, AP's reach around the world is the largest.
Peter: Peter from the Washington Post.
On the large plane issue given the fact that these are extraordinary times, there's a war on, it would seem that if you could bump up to 20 seats you would be able to accommodate the news organizations, the AP and the large newspapers who have consistently for many years traveled with the Secretary of Defense, and also accommodate the news organizations who also want to go because there's a war.
If you could add, I don't think it would be that difficult to find a few more seats on the plane. It will solve a lot of the problem.
Quigley: Perhaps so. I will tell you, it is an issue each and every trip. I mean we are literally up there fighting for one more seat or two more seats, and so it is always an issue. It would certainly simplify the matter from our perspective, no argument there. But it is always an issue as to how many seats.
Gene Marlin: Gene Marlin again.
If it turns out that AP is not going to be assured of a seat there and that it's going to be rotating among the other wires, everyone gets the AP here, it represents us. We don't get the other wires. And if we discover that we do not have that sort of guarantee that we're going to be able to get that service a lot of newspapers will have to reconfigure themselves how they're going to be covering this. I think you'll find that more newspapers will be clamoring to get all these trips than you've got now. We will certainly have to reconsider the way we're doing it.
Quigley: A new alternative here.
Voice: When the networks are pooling for pictures and those pictures go out, then they go out to all the entities with international news as well through that. Is there something that wouldn't be the same thing that would be occurring within the wire if there was a single pool wire?
Quigley: I'm sorry. I don't understand your question.
Voice: Would the single pool wire be given to all the wire members of that group to be used?
Quigley: It's something to consider.
Voice: You mean if you had it down to four or five.
Voice: Yeah, that's the way it's been done. On September 11th when the president, when he went from Barksdale to Offutt, he had, at Barksdale he had the full Air Force One pool with them and then they went down to a tight pool.
Voice: Not quite. Minus one. (Laughter)
Voice: They went down to one, it was the AP and they pooled her.
Sandy Johnson: Sandy Johnson with the AP.
We've never written a pool report, per se, because when we file a story it goes to 1,500 American newspapers, it goes to 5,000 American broadcasters and it goes to 8,500 clients overseas. The only people who do not receive those reports are the foreign wire services.
Voice: That's not true. On September 11th your person who was with the president at Offutt called the wires, they called us. In that case it was a tight pool and the ground rules were that that person would pool with all the wires. I'm not sure who they called. They certainly called us.
Voice: -- five people on that plane.
Voice: I'm saying, they're talking about when they go down to four or five.
Owen Ullmann: On the largest plane, is it possible that some staff can drop off at different points and --
Voice: When their expertise is no longer needed.
Owen Ullmann: -- be added.
Quigley: Then you get back to an issue of additional cost for the government because I have to send that person home commercially and the tickets aren't free. So the plane's going, one way or the other with however many people on it, so it is an issue of additional cost for the government as well.
Owen Ullmann: Of course that seat taken by a news organization could pay comparable cost too.
Quigley: Oh, gosh. If I make five trips, or five stops on a trip and the cost per seat changes between stops, I'm shuddering here. (Laughter)
Voice: When news organizations go, do they ever drop off? Like they do the newsy part of the trip and then drop off?
Quigley: It has happened but it's very rare.
Voice: I would say that's one condition of traveling has got to be if you go, you stay for the whole trip. You don't cherry pick the stops you want.
And I think again, probably if you can get more seats, I know it's an issue, but to raise it with the secretary, either more seats or a charter certainly would be preferable to everyone of us.
Voice: Probably the one single thing you would get everyone in this room to agree on today is more seats.
Voice: I think AP and if there's going to be rotation among the other wires, I think the AP should go along on every trip. We got agreement on that.
Quigley: Okay. (Laughter)
Voice: There is no dispute of the importance of AP for the American market. Nobody would dispute that. But I would dispute that AFP and Reuters are not standing with AP abroad. We all have our (inaudible). AFP is the number one agency in Asia, in Arabic language.
If there was a limited seat for the wires, I would insist my news organization, would insist, that it would be a pool. Maybe rotation, but a pool at least, if we are not all included.
Quigley: There are other news organizations that are not included in the DoD national media pool structure that do cover the Pentagon routinely, and I'll list Bloomberg among them. Not one that frequently asks to travel, but a very robust coverage of the Pentagon on a daily basis. Also on the radio side, Voice of America. They're here covering the building every day.
So there are exceptions to the general rule as well amongst those organizations. We've got to think that one through, too.
Any closing thoughts?
Jack Payton: Speaking of Voice of America, Jack Payton from Voice of America.
We mentioned that radio seat. I think if there was a radio seat that's set aside it should be rotated and not self-selected.
Quigley: So there's a dissenting view to that.
Jack Payton: We're in a special category, as you mentioned, on that one.
Voice: I think we can work that through off-line.
Voice: I'd like to reemphasize the pool point
I think among each group of media. If you do come up with some kind of rotation where people are excluded, I think it's incumbent on each group to provide pool reports, pool the information for the others. If we don't have enough seats for everyone to get on. It can be worked out.
Quigley: Within their media or --
Voice: -- newspapers or newspapers or wires to wires, but I think that any system that excludes people has got to then provide that information on a pool basis and details can be worked out.
Quigley: That's a significant issue. Is there agreement on that? That's a significant issue. That makes every trip a pool trip, for the most part.
Voice: I think during war times I think it's --
Quigley: If I understand your point correctly.
Voice: Yes. You do.
Voice: Could you clarify that a little bit?
Quigley: I will paraphrase you and correct me if I'm wrong.
Within a medium, whether that's radio or print or wires or what not, television, there would be pooling of the products that the people that actually went on the trip would provide to the other news organizations in that medium that did not go on the trip. Is that right?
Voice: -- medium, right? I mean if there are people who are denied seats on the plane, then the information is to be shared so you're going into some really interesting --
Quigley: And a very different dynamic here.
Voice: We discussed the idea that a pool would be for when there's a very small plane. I think there would be much -- I would oppose that and I think that reliance on the wires is much better than a pool arrangement unless there's a very small plane.
Voice: -- I think that's why wire representation is important, because everybody may get the AP. But it's a worldwide story and not everybody around the world does get the AP.
Quigley: You could make a case for multiple wires to be filed as wires. Many other news organizations subscribe to their service, and then other news organizations filing unilaterally.
Voice: That doesn't do much for --
Quigley: That's different, though.
Voice: It doesn't do much for some of the media, some of the different outlets that have different media. (inaudible).
Quigley: It doesn't give you pictures.
Voice: It doesn't give you --
Voice: To use the White House analogy again, things that are said on background or off the record, it's not going to help to have 16 wires because it can't be published.
If -- and I'm talking about the larger plane too -- if we have a rotation, if there's a system where you're choosing, there's got to be an opportunity for those who want to travel at the time but couldn't, to be able to have access to that information. Now how it's worked out I think can be decided.
(inaudible) done here, whether it's newspaper to newspaper or whatever, but I think the information has to be made available. I think that's part of the rules of fairness.
Gerry Seib: I do think on that point there is probably a White House analogy that if a print pool report made available to other people in the print pool who have different needs and desires from people in the electronic media. I mean that I think probably does make some sense. If the secretary does a briefing on the plane, a pool report of the contents of that briefing made available to print news organizations, for example, that attempted to make the trip but weren't included in the group, that it be made available to them. That does strike me as something that has a workable quality to it.
Voice: The current system is that a transcript is normally put out.
Voice: Yeah, but --
Voice: People who travel get the exclusivity of it.
Voice: And they still would. But you know, the problem with the transcript is it's slow, and it's not as immediate to the needs of the print organizations as a pool report might be. That's all I'm saying.
Voice: That's a very important point, especially for the wires. The problem of the pool transcript, it's very slow, and for the wires if there is one of the three or four news organization wire, the other three get the reports --
Voice: And nobody would I think argue or pretend that that's in quality terms comparable to being on the trip, but it is a stop gap measure, particularly under these circumstances of a war situation.
Voice: A lot of things happen on those trips that aren't going to ever get reflected in a pool report, and we all know that, and that's the value of being on the trip. So I'm not suggesting there's equity there in the way some people would define it, but there is a function that would be served if that were to happen. And if it could happen in real time.
Voice: With whom would you share the pool report?
Quigley: I was going to ask the same question.
Voice: Everybody who would have been on the --
Voice: That was my --
Voice: -- the medium. The information, just like the pool reports are put out, the information is available to everyone.
Voice: Everybody who would have been on the trip but was denied the opportunity to be there.
Voice: How do you define that? Everyone who --
Voice: How does the White House circulate the pool report?
Voice: They do it by e-mail, and the vehicle or the medium that could be used here would be DefenseLink if the military agrees.
Voice: -- easier than a charter.
Voice: I would argue that the effort ought to be to get the information to the people who would have been willing to put out the time, the manpower and the money to be on the plane. In that case, and therefore we're in a different category from the universe at large.
Voice: No, but I think, (inaudible) of the e-mails that come out from the White House (inaudible) the people who are covering the White House --
Quigley: So let's just use newspaper as an example. On a trip I have ten newspapers that want to go, have clearly expressed an interest to go. I choose four. That means the other six who don't get should receive on a pool basis the products created by the four that did.
Voice: A pool report created by the four that did.
Voice: -- story that they --
Voice: Of course not. A pool report, and they would do --
Voice: -- comes out that he said, he saw, they said.
Quigley: Factual, bang, bang, bang.
Voice: That's what the wire services do best.
Voice: But do you really want to be administering that trip by trip? Or shouldn't we designate a group --
Quigley: Yeah, I don't know.
Voice: I think you want to have a more regular group of people or organizations that have decided that they want to be participants in this. And you always get the pool reports for those organizations rather than deciding trip by trip. I think what you're trying to do is take the individual decision making out of each and every trip.
Voice: -- on this trip or was it Chicago?
John Henry: John Henry at the Houston Chronicle.
Whenever you sent out a solicitation, the secretary is going on this trip, do you want to go, and you get back responses yes or no, you take the yes' and it's automatic, e-mail them, send them (inaudible). Because if you opt out, you're not willing to cover the cost, why should you benefit from the pool?
Voice: Because I would say that if you're a DoD media pool member then that to me is the circle of people that you are including. Always. It's not whether people sign up on the press plane with the White House to go, whether they get that e-mail. All of the people who have been deemed as people who are covering the White House are put on a permanent White House list and they get every transcript, official transcript. They get a pool report from whoever is going on Air Force One. They shake it and they put it into that mail group and they send it. So they merely just put it out there.
Quigley: So you would have both a pool report and unilateral reporting from those --
Voice: -- factual information. Then as everyone has said, the bonus of being on the trip is the stuff that you're able to flesh out and use not only then but long term.
Quigley: Plus put it in your own story, separate from the pool report.
Voice: -- that everyone makes coming here every day to cover this building, with or without a war.
Voice: Who's going to write the pool report?
Voice: It's an obligation you assume --
Quigley: I was going to say that would be --
Voice: -- and you hand it to, you hand it to the department person, the DoD person in whatever form, a floppy or whatever, and they send it out.
Quigley: To the other six in my example for instance.
Voice: They send it out to everybody.
Quigley: That's a different issue.
Voice: Sorry. They send it out to everybody within that DoD media group. It crosses, it doesn't just go to print. It goes to brace at 9:45 and the gag will be a 9:45, it's going to break at [1:45] and all of that.
Quigley: Okay. Thank you all very much. Lots of good stuff. We will be quick and we will --
Voice: (inaudible) (Laughter)
Quigley: Now tomorrow's meeting will -- (Laughter)
Thank you all.