This morning, USA Today's Gregory Korte tweeted out the new seating chart for the White House press briefing room -- the organizations that fill out the 49 seat everyone sees on TV when you watch the daily press gaggle at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. (You all watch that every day, right? Right?)
— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) March 25, 2015
I loved this chart but wanted to know how the makeup of media organizations with assigned seats in the room had changed over the past few years as journalism has been hit by a wave of constrictions and growth. So, naturally, I asked Mark Knoller of CBS Radio for a seating chart from the past. (Mark is the keeper of all historical records at the White House and is a national treasure.) He provided me with a Excel spreadsheet of the seating chart from 2009. Philip Bump of the Fix posse then took the two charts and turned them into this one chart, which allows you to toggle between the 2009 chart and the 2015 version.
It's pretty cool, right? A few observations:
1. The first three rows remain largely unchanged. Helen Thomas had a front row seat in 2009 that was eliminated when she passed away in 2013. Fox News Channel, which had a second row seat, moved up to the front row. NPR, which was in the third row, moved up to the second to fill the FNC vacancy. And April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks went from row four to row three. Aside from that, the occupants of the first three rows are unchanged.
2. Once you get beyond those first three rows -- there are seven total rows with seven seats in each -- chaos reigns with tons of movement and subtractions/additions. I didn't document them all here because, well, I didn't think it was worth the time. If you are inclined to document every seat change, do so!
3. By my count, there are eight organizations with either a full or shared seat in 2015 that had neither in 2009. They are: A "foreign pool" seat, Yahoo News, Daily Beast, SiriusXM, BBC, BuzzFeed, Financial Times and The Guardian.
4. Again, by my count, there are six people/organizations who had a seat -- full or split -- in 2009 and no longer do: Helen Thomas (as mentioned above), Newsweek, US News, Congress Daily, CCH and UPI. The Boston Globe went from a full seat to sharing one with BBC.
What does it all tell us? Mostly stuff we already know. That the influence of the big wheels in media -- wire services, TV networks and the big traditional newspapers -- doesn't change much. That news magazines have been the hardest hit by the media fracturing. And that digital-only offerings are the growth area of journalism.
The question now is how does a room that includes the likes of BuzzFeed, for example, change the nature of the press briefing -- if at all? I asked Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed, for his reaction to the organization getting a seat in the room for the first time."[BuzzFeed White House reporter] Evan [McMorris-Santoro] is a great reporter and deserves a seat at any table," said Smith. "I've told him his new goal is to make everyone so mad at him they take the seat away."