Cost of following Bush too high for US press

Keeping up with President Bush is proving too expensive these days for some American newspapers. There was a time whenever a US president traveled, whether it was just across country or around the world, he would be accompanied by a posse of journalists
Often they traveled in a special Press plane provided by the military. Or in special cut-price charter planes

Today things have changed. Apart from the official Press pool, the two or three newsmen and a photographer, who fly with the President in Air Force One, there are often only a few journalists accompanying the American President when he travels . For example, when Bush flew to Wisconsin to a fund-raiser on what turned out to the day when the big airline terror plot was revealed in London most of the Washington Press corps was a thousand miles away. The only journalists able to convey Bush’s reaction to the plot were a handful of local journalists and the White House press pool

The reason? . The cost of covering the American president has risen dramatically – at a time when newspapers here have to watch the pennies. As the Washington Post reported, for a one-day trip to St Louis, they were billed $3,317. A two day trip to Europe costs $8,283 – not including hotel charges.

As a result, when a Press plane is available, sometimes there are only a handful of journalists aboard. Newspapers such as USA Today, the Wall Street Journal. The Chicago Tribune, that regularly traveled with the President, now do so only sporadically. A few. like The Boston Globe no longer even have a White House correspondent
President Bush, the Washington Post notes, has traveled out of Washington at least seven times this year without a Press plane

Some former White House officials, such as Lanny Davis, a special counsel, who worked for Bill Clinton, are surprised that the new lack of coverage when the president travels has not generated more criticism.

White House spokesman Tony Snow, while insisting there is nothing insidious about the cut-back in coverage, says it is all a matter of money. “It used to be” he says “that media organisations had more dough” He still says that in this modern age of communication technology American presidents are more widely available – and covered – than at any point in American history. “If there is big news, we make sure the president’s available” No matter how many, or how few, reporters may be around.

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