The White House Correspondents’ Association and me

Last week, the White House Correspondents’ Association announced that its executive director, Julie Whiston, was retiring and that the search for a new leader was underway. I am applying to be the organization’s next executive director and I thought I’d use this space to explain why.

The decision to pursue this position might strike many as odd, considering that I’ve been fairly critical of the Association in recent years. My 2015 documentary, “Nerd Prom: Inside Washington’s Wildest Week,” criticized the Association’s finances and, since then, I’ve urged the Association to become more transparent in its interactions.

These positions haven’t earned me many friends within the Association. But I hope my criticisms and my body of work prove that my reporting has always been motivated by a desire to see the White House Correspondents’ Association more fully realize its important mission: To support White House journalists and the Association’s scholarship program.

In fact, the final third of my documentary is very much a love letter to White House correspondents and also a run-down of the increasing challenges they face (and why that’s bad for democracy).

I would argue that the Association — now a 100+ year old, half-a-million a year non-profit — needs the very kind of leadership that I would provide: Informed, inspired and inclusive.

To help prove my seriousness about this endeavor, I will make this commitment right now: I will take the job for half of the salary of the current executive director and donate that money towards the Association’s valuable scholarship program. In so doing, we would — overnight — double the value of the Association’s scholarship program. That’s a good thing.

As executive director, I would seek to work with board members to:

  • More aggressively use the Association as a galvanizing force to press — transparently and out in public — White House administrations to avoid harmful press policies.
  • Bolster and expand the Association’s student scholarship program and provide additional resources for existing journalists to acutely study and investigate White House press access.
  • Conduct the Association’s affairs openly and in full view of the American public.
  • Utilize the spotlight available at the Association’s annual dinner to more aggressively support and spread the Association’s core missions.
  • Eliminate the red carpet at the Association’s annual dinner.
  • Establish partnerships with journalism schools to both mentor the next generation of White House correspondents and increase the dialogue around media-related issues and concerns.
  • Institute a mentorship program between older and younger White House correspondents.
  • Develop an ongoing discussion series that would take place around the country to introduce Americans to White House correspondents, educate them about their work and raise awareness around issues related to White House journalisms.
  • Partner with global partners fighting for media access in their respective countries.

I welcome additional thoughts from others about how the Association can best serve its members and White House journalism writ large. Please email me at pwgavin at gmail dot com to keep the conversation going.

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