Test Your White House Press Corps IQ!  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   October 2000

Test Your White House Press Corps IQ!   

By Eric Newton
Eric Newton is director of journalism initiatives for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.     


When Teddy Roosevelt was president, a few lucky reporters gathered to chat with him as he got his morning shave. Today, more than 1,600 correspondents jockey for position, all trying to cover the White House. Who serves America best, the few or the mob? Believe it or not, it's the mob. In Roosevelt's day, the president could not be quoted by name, and reporters would not be invited back unless they wrote what he dictated.

So how much do you really know about the White House press corps? Try this quiz, derived from the exhibit, "Mr. President!," at the Freedom Forum's Newseum in Arlington, Virginia, through January 28. Answers may be found at the end.

1. The Clinton administration has spearheaded a plan to move the White House press corps...
a. to the Old Executive Office Building
b. to a new underground lair beneath the West Wing
c. to Yugoslavia

2. The White House press briefing room is...
a. three floors down from the press secretary's office
b. named after Helen Thomas
c. built over a swimming pool where JFK once skinny-dipped

3. Which reporter donned the San Diego Chicken head to interview President Gerald Ford and relieve the tedium of a campaign road trip?
a. James M. Naughton of the New York Times
b. Hunter S. Thompson of Rolling Stone
c. Sam Donaldson of ABC

4. Which president gave the most press conferences per month? The fewest?
a. Ronald Reagan
b. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
c. John F. Kennedy
d. George Bush

5. What has each presidential press secretary passed to the next for the past two decades?
a. a picture of Time's Hugh Sidey skinny-dipping with JFK
b. the sign: "You don't tell us how to stage the news, and we won't tell you how to cover it."
c. a bulletproof vest

6. Which great exposé was the White House press corps first to report?
a. the Watergate scandal
b. the Iran-contra affair
c. the savings and loan debacle
d. the Monica Lewinsky saga
e. none of the above

7. Reporters say they do not want to give up having a press area in the White House, even though they call it...
a. Willy Wonka's spin factory
b. the house Monica built
c. the dungeon

8. What did press secretary Jody Powell reveal that he regretted?
a. the plan to rescue the Iranian hostages
b. President Jimmy Carter's encounter with a hissing rabbit
c. Dan Rather's home phone number

9. Of the press corps, press secretary Mike McCurry said it was _______ to "take that extraordinary talent and hold them hostage in this 19th century mansion...waiting for someone to drop a morsel of news in their vicinity."
a. "my life's work"
b. "unhealthy"
c. "democracy in action"

10. "Pebble Beach" was born when the White House set up a gravel strip outside for television shots. This happened because:
a. hundreds of reporters trampled the area during the Monica story and turned the lawn to mud
b. NBC's Chris Wallace was banned from the building for calling the press secretary a liar
c. the District of Columbia fire marshal declared the briefing room off limits


Answers: 1b; 2c; 3a; 4 most, b, fewest, a; 5c; 6e; 7c; 8b; 9b; 10a
To get your White House Press Corps IQ, give yourself 15 points for each right answer.

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