Earlier versions of this story incorrectly identified a CBS producer as Jeff Goodman. The correct spelling should be Jeff Goldman. This version has been corrected.
White House Press Corps Faces Unique Challenges in Hawaii
Friday, December 26, 2008
HONOLULU, Dec. 25 -- It's prime time and CNN's Ed Henry is standing on the white sand of Waikiki Beach, reporting live on President-elect Barack Obama's holiday vacation in Hawaii. With the volcanic mountain Diamond Head in the distance, Henry is flanked by palm trees, bikini-clad babes and surfer dudes.
"Ed, are those your producers over your right shoulder, like sunning themselves and deciding what books to read?" anchor Anderson Cooper asks.
"No, my producers are working very hard," Henry replies.
"Okay, yeah, I think you're in board shorts and have a mai tai nearby," Cooper says, prodding the cameraman to zoom out.
And voilà! Below his blue dress shirt, Henry's sporting teal swim trunks with orange stripes.
"I kept my shirt on because I don't have the pecs of either Anderson Cooper or Barack Obama," Henry, the network's self-deprecating senior White House correspondent, said later in an interview.
For the White House press corps, covering Obama's 13-day Hawaiian sojourn is a departure from past holidays hunkered down near President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Tex. They've upgraded their offices from highway hotels in Waco to the Westin Moana Surfrider Resort on Waikiki Beach. They've traded a backdrop of rusted farm equipment and bales of hay for sailboats, longboards and crashing waves.
And they've hung up their winter coats.
"What a difference a year makes," exults NBC White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie, leaning back in a padded armchair on a veranda overlooking the Pacific.
"No offense to the people of Crawford, Texas, but taking the presidential retreat from Crawford to Honolulu is change anyone can believe in," Henry says, borrowing a phrase from Obama's campaign.
Although Obama is staying about 15 miles away in the quiet beach town of Kailua, the television networks decided to broadcast from the beach in front of the Honolulu hotel where journalists and Obama's staff are staying. The location affords a stunning backdrop of Diamond Head, one of Hawaii's most recognizable landmarks. Since the isles are five time zones behind the East Coast, the sun is blazing during reports on the evening news.
But broadcasting live from a tourist-packed beach can be dicey. Sunbathers stretch out just a few feet away, and shirtless vacationers gather close to the correspondents to snap pictures during their reports. And there's no telling if a strong wave might splash the cameras or whether kids might get silly in the background.