News orgs fight ‘spray’

Bush-Blair summit barred reporters

WASHINGTON — When President Bush arrived in Ireland on Monday for a summit meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the White House told the network pool that an initial press op would be strictly “spray”– meaning only a camera would be let in the room and no correspondent.

Banding together, all the major U.S. news orgs said that in that case, they wouldn’t air any footage at all.

“The TV nets have a cardinal rule — the pool camera cannot be separated from the editorial person. They don’t want to be manipulated,” one news exec said.

From the perspective of Bush’s handlers, they didn’t want their boss exposed to questions from journalists at that particular time.

The cable and broadcast newsies may be fiercely competitive, but when it comes to this particular issue, they tend to see eye-to-eye. Decisions about whether to use pool footage are generally made by Washington bureau chiefs.

On Tuesday, Bush and Blair hosted a more official press gathering. This time, reporters were welcomed.

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