In the early months of 1914, reporters who regularly covered the White House became alarmed at rumors that the Congressional Standing Committee of Correspondents would be entrusted with choosing reporters for a series of regular press conferences being planned by President Woodrow Wilson. Eleven White House reporters responded to the reports by establishing the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) to support “the interests of those reporters and correspondents assigned to cover the White House.”
Although the rumors proved to be untrue, the WHCA endured and elected William W. Price, a Washington Evening Star reporter who was one of the early journalists to cover the White House on a full-time basis (and the first to write a column of White House news morsels), as the WHCA’s first president.
As news technology changed and White House news coverage proliferated beyond print, radio and television, the membership and leadership of the WHCA also become more diverse. In 1975 Helen Thomas was elected WHCA president, the first woman to hold the post. In 1980 Robert Pierpoint of CBS became the first electronic media journalist to be elected head of the WHCA, and in 1991 Bob Ellison, White House correspondent for the Sheridan Broadcasting Network (later American Urban Radio Networks), became the WHCA’s first African American president.
Today, through its scholarships, journalism awards, annual dinner and other activities, the WHCA carries on its 100-year tradition of supporting the interests of journalists who cover the president and the official activities of the White House.
Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Martha Joynt Kumar, Towson University professor and member of the WHHA board
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