White House to charge reporters for Covid tests – Times of India

WASHINGTON: Journalists and freebies have long gone hand-in-hand under the assumption that scribes do a public good, but that proposition is being put to test by the Biden White House which, starting Monday, will charge reporters $170 for a Covid test every time they come to the White House.
The move has generated a frisson of resentment among journalists who argue that it would sent up a “means test” for the media and hurt smaller organisations for whom a $170 daily fee would be a big ask in tough times.
Health and security measures, they maintain, have typically been the responsibility of the White House — in other words, taxpayers — not news organizations.
“Nobody asked us to pay a fee to put up the fence,” an unnamed journalist told the Washington Post, which first reported the friendly fracas, referring to security barriers erected around the White House complex.
But the White House, which piloted a $1.9 billion stimulus bill this past week, says cost of maintaining the Covid testing regime is straining its housekeeping budget. Therefore — no test, no entry to the White House.
After discussions between the President’s aides and the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA), which represents the press corps assigned to cover the President and regulates pool coverage, the White House has now agreed to foot the bill for tests administered to the “press pool” — the core group selected by WHCA to cover the President.
The White House will also accept proof of an outside test as an alternative condition for entry although metrics for this are still unclear. Cost of private tests in the Washington DC area currently range from $50 to $200 depending on the speed, location and method used.
The US news media has long paid for most aspects of covering the White House, including traveling with the President. Journalists flying on Air Force One are typically billed for air fare, hotels, meals, travel office space etc, money docked from a credit card required to be submitted in advance.
But some facilities are taxpayer funded, including a White House briefing room and workspace allotted to wire services and network television, although the media did cough up some 30 per cent of the cost of the $ 8.5 million briefing room refurbishment during the Bush presidency.
News organizations are currently limited to 80 people a day — including producers and camera crew — on the White House grounds because of coronavirus restrictions, with those allowed to attend daily briefings restricted to 14 at a time. Even a tight five-six person crew that networks deploy would now cost them up to $ 1000 a day just for Covid-19 tests alone.

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