The heated battle over which television networks can be included in the daily press pool at the White House coded off temporarily yesterday after a federal judge ordered the White House press office to revoke its day-old notice exludiing all TV crews from pool assignments.
U.S. District Court Judge Orinda Evans Thursday night granted the request of two networks for a 10-day restraining order against the notice.
In response, the White House press office yesterday said it would revert for the time being to its traditional policy, in which slots in the pool, the smalll group of reporters who follow the president and the first lady wherever they go, are rotated daily among ABC, CBS and NBC crews.
But the 10-day interlude will not resolve the basic dispute, which has the White House in the middle of an angry argument between those networks and a new competitor, the Atlanta-based Cable News NETWORK (CNN).
The pool follows the president when there is not enough room for the entire White House press corps. Reporters and comeramen in the pool then provide information and videotape to the rest of the press.
CNN says this system does not fit its 24-hour news format, which calls for live coverage of presidential news. In May, the cable network brought suit before Evans in Atlanta, charging that the three older networks and the White House were acting together to keep its camera crews out of the pool.
The White House, sidestepping the controversy, said it no longer would have a hand in assigning TV pools. Deputy White House press secretary Larry Speakes told the four networks to work out their own plan for daily pool slots.
For reasons ranging from competitive instincts to labor union rules, the networks could not agree. Speakes then issued the notice excluding all TV crews from the pool. That notice, issued Thursday, has been lifted temporarily by Evans order.