Think this guy knows you? (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Think this guy knows you? (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Politico Magazine is an enterprising publication. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), Politico Magazine whipped up a survey and secured WHCA’s cooperation in blasting it out to its members. Steve Thomma, senior White House correspondent for McClatchy and WHCA president, says, “The board decided that because of the centennial that we would distribute it” on the WHCA list, which includes more than 200 addresses. Politico Magazine got no access to the list itself.

The survey contains a total of 41 questions, though Thomma didn’t seek to exercise input on its content. “We don’t police the journalism of our members,” says Thomma, noting that Politico Magazine editor Susan Glasser and Politico are one of the WHCA’s “main” members. “I trusted that they weren’t going to ask something ridiculous.”

Trust redeemed, for the most part. As laid out below, the survey asks about quite a few pressing and consequential matters, including how useful reporters consider press briefings, how helpful certain White House officials have been, whether you’ve even been lied to by the Obama White House, whether you agree or disagree that this White House is the most secretive that the New York Times’s Jill Abramson has ever covered and so on.

Look closely, however, and you’ll find some demi-ridiculous material:

16. Do you think President Obama knows you by name?

17. Do you think Jay Carney knows you by name?

Watch out, White House correspondents: If too many of you answer yes to those questions, brace yourselves for a Politico Magazine subhead saying this, “Corps of self-importance — 92 percent of White House scribes think the president knows them by name!”

The folks at liberal-media-policing site NewsBusters would take comfort in the clear anti-Obama tilt in this one:

25. There have been more leak-related prosecutions under the Obama administration (seven) than under all previous presidents combined (three). On a scale from 1 (not at all) to 10 (absolutely), how much of a chilling effect has this had on your reporting?

And in a sign that Politico Magazine would like to harness the clicks that come from divining an ideological tilt in the White House press corps, witness this question:

33. Given what you know now, who do you think will be the next president?

If the answers to this trend the right way, bloggers will latch on to the finding. Imagine: “Survey: Most White House reporters think Hillary will be next prez. Why even have an election?”

Yet the few oddball questions aren’t really the survey’s main drawback. That would be the warning at the beginning of the questionnaire, which attempts to locate some mushy middle ground between attribution and non-attribution:

***ANONYMOUS SECTION: Your participation in the survey will be on the record, but your individual answers to these questions will not be attributed to you by name.***

This is Washington, where no one — not government officials, not reporters, not tourists — goes on the record about anything. How many WHCA types will want to share their sincerest thoughts about their work and the White House knowing they’ll be lodged in some Politico Magazine file cabinet in perpetuity?

Full survey:

Covering the White House
A POLITICO MAGAZINE Survey

The White House Correspondents’ Association was founded a century ago this year, in response to Woodrow Wilson’s threat to end presidential press conferences. And even though the president today is more visible than ever on social media and cable TV, the White House press is still fighting for access: Photographers want more chances to catch President Obama candidly on camera, while reporters vie for coveted interviews with him or simply for on-the-record quotes from administration officials addicted to anonymity.
So what’s changed in 100 years of journalism at 1600 Pennsylvania, and what changes should we expect in the years to come? POLITICO MAGAZINE is asking the members of the WHCA to share their thoughts for what we hope will be an honest, comprehensive look at the state of White House reporting. We’ll feature the results of this unique survey in our upcoming May/June issue of the magazine. Please send your responses to Margy Slattery (mslattery@politico.com) by next Friday, April 4, at noon. And please don’t hesitate to contact our editor, Susan Glasser (sglasser@politico.com, 703-842-1787), with any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Name: _________________________ News organization: _________________________

***ANONYMOUS SECTION: Your participation in the survey will be on the record, but your individual answers to these questions will not be attributed to you by name.***

The Who and the What
1. How long have you been a journalist? ____________
How long have you been on the White House beat? ____________

2. Have you covered other Washington beats? Please mark any that apply:
a. Congress b. National politics c. Pentagon d. State Department e. Other:

3. Which one of the Washington beats you’ve covered has been the most professionally satisfying?
a. White House b. Congress c. National politics d. Pentagon e. State Department f. Other g. None

4. How often do you typically file stories?
a. Multiple times in a day b. Once every weekday c. Fewer than five times a week d. Other:

5. Is this more or less frequently compared with five years ago?

6. Which news platform(s) are your stories published on?
a. Print b. Web c. Radio d. Television e. Other:

7. How old will you be on May 2, when the survey is published?

8. What is your salary range?
a. Less than $50,000 b. $50,000-$100,000 c. $100,001-$200,000 d. $200,001-$300,000 e. More than $300,000 f. Prefer not to say.

Life on the Beat
9. How often do you attend White House press briefings?
a. Every day b. 3-4 times a week c. 1-2 times a week d. Less than once a week

10. On average, how often would you say you get called on to ask a question at a press briefing?
a. Always b. Sometimes c. Never

11. On a scale from 1 (totally lame) to 10 (essential), how useful do you consider press briefings?

12. Do you think press briefings should continue to exist in their current form? If not, what would you change about them?

13. How many times, if ever, have you or your news organization had an exclusive interview with President Obama? How does that number compare to any past presidents you’ve covered?

14. How many times have you traveled with President Obama as a member of the press corps?
a. In the United States:
b. Out of the country:

15. On a scale from 1 (not at all) to 10 (essential), how useful do you consider White House pool reports?

16. Do you think President Obama knows you by name?

17. Do you think Jay Carney knows you by name?

18. How often in the last week did you interview White House officials who do not work in the Communications or Press offices, whether on the record or on background?
a. Once b. Fewer than five times c. Whenever I wanted d. Are you kidding?

19. Rank these White House offices in the order you consider them helpful to reporters. (Use “1” for the most helpful office.)
a. Press Office b. Communications Office c. Office of Management and Budget d. National Security Council e. Vice President’s Office f. First Lady’s Office

20. Rank these White House officials in the order you consider them helpful to reporters. (Use “1” for the most helpful official.)
a. Jay Carney b. Jen Palmieri c. Ben Rhodes d. John Podesta e. Denis McDonough f. Dan Pfeiffer g. Other:

21. On a scale of 1 (not a bit) to 5 (very much), how much does the White House appear to care about what your news organization publishes/broadcasts?

22. How frequently does a White House official complain to you about a story?
a. Never b. Sometimes c. Often d. Most of the time e. Nearly all of the time

23. Have you ever been lied to by an official of this White House? Sworn at?

24. New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson has called the Obama administration the “most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering.” Based on your own experience, do you agree or disagree?

25. There have been more leak-related prosecutions under the Obama administration (seven) than under all previous presidents combined (three). On a scale from 1 (not at all) to 10 (absolutely), how much of a chilling effect has this had on your reporting?

26. After the WHCA pressed the Obama administration for more access for photographers, Jay Carney promised in December that the White House was “working on expanding access where we can.” Based on your observation, have White House photographers been given more access since then?

27. Take a stab—what percentage of what’s really going on inside the White House do you think White House reporters understand?

28. Which White House do you consider more forthcoming with information for reporters: George W. Bush’s or Barack Obama’s?

29. Do you think President Obama has received better coverage by the news media than he deserves, worse coverage than he deserves or about what he deserves?

30. The best journalist currently covering the White House is… (Please feel free to list one for each category.)
a. Wire: ¬__________ b. Print: __________ c. Radio: __________ d. Television: __________

31. The best journalist ever to cover the White House is…

32. If you could work in any news organization other than your own, which would it be?

33. Given what you know now, who do you think will be the next president?

34. If you could bring any source to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner who would it be?

35. Which TV show or movie captures Washington best? (Please pick one.)
a. House of Cards b. The West Wing c. Air Force One d. Veep e. Alpha House f. Other

***ANSWERS FOR ATTRIBUTION: These answers, if you choose to provide them, will be attributed to you by name.***

1. What most people don’t know about covering the White House is…

2. The best way to get information out of this White House is…

3. If I could get the Obama White House to change one thing, it would be…

4. When President Obama calls this the “most transparent administration in history,” my reaction is…

5. The best White House press secretary I’ve worked with is… because…

6. One hundred years from now, White House reporters will…

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.