Media Spotlight: Follow the Leader

on taking the helm of the White House Correspondents Association.

By

Christi Parsons (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Times)

Christi Parsons (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Times)

The White House Correspondents Association has developed a sharper set of teeth over the years. It is no longer simply an elite organization that plans for the fancy dinner and parties in the spring. It is also a watchdog organization that fights for transparency, access to the President and his staff, and smoother relations in general. The WHCA also sponsors scholarships and conducts panel discussions.

The White House press relations are far from perfect, and the journalists with the most resources get the most attention — that is politics and good business. But it does trigger frustration in this time of growing independent journalists (which I have been since 1968).

The person who is fighting hardest for change is Christi Parsons, the new president of the WHCA. She shows nice professionals can finish first! She has risen to the top of the Press Corps in a few short years. She and her WHCA Board have made a difference with many more press conferences from the President, , and other top officials. The answers are long, and not everyone gets to ask questions. But it is an improvement, thanks to Christi.

We wanted to share more about her, so I posed a set of questions. Here in her own words is Christi Parsons, President of the WHCA:

I love journalists and the work they do. Working with the White House press corps is the honor of a lifetime.

A bad day in a pool van is better than a good day just about anywhere else.

As for being president of the WHCA, I’ve never had more fun. The press corps is united in pushing for openness and transparency at the White House. Serving on the board is mainly a matter of keeping a close eye on what’s happening at the White House, sharing that information with members and pointing out where there’s work to be done. Journalists pick up the baton and run with it.

Thanks for calling me a “nice girl.” That’s a compliment, in my book, as long as you think that “nice” also means “honest and straightforward.” Sometimes it means saying things that people don’t want to hear. But I like to think I’m nice enough to pay people that respect.

I’ll be honest and straightforward with the White House. And I’ll do it with our members, even when it comes to questions about the spring dinner.

Here’s what I care about — vigorously representing the press and the public by fighting for information and transparency.

Here’s what I don’t care about — packing more and more people into the spring dinner.

I studied English and journalism at the University of Alabama (bachelor’s) and law at Yale Law School (master’s).

I also went to Central High School of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, under court-ordered busing. It’s the best thing about my growing-up years.

I support the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church and the Alabama Crimson Tide. I adore my family.

I’m proud to work for the World’s Greatest Newspaper (the Chicago Tribune, my professional home since I was 21 years old), and now for the fine and noble editors of the Los Angeles Times, too.

I can’t imagine ever, ever having a job I love more than the one I’m honored to have right now.

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