What's a pool report?

The White House Correspondents corps is a large and vicious organism, demanding information, anecdotes and a minute-by-minute accounting of the working of the US government. In many cases, not all the reporters accredited to the White House can fit into a banquet room, helicopter, diner, train, or Texas ranch to follow the President's every move.

Because of limited space in the presidential motorcade, on Air Force One and in the Oval Office, the White House organizes a rotation of "pool" reporters, who send write-ups to colleagues who were not allowed inside but must cover the event. Often, however, the pool reporter is not allowed to observe the president, either, leading to creative -- if uninformative -- reports.

The Bush White House has expanded the audience for the pool reports by e-mailing them also to more than a thousand government officials and Republican operatives. This gives the dispatches -- part travelogue, part gripe and occasionally part news -- a disproportionately large following.

As the Washington Post tells us,

nobody delighted this following more than [the Chicago Tribune's Bob] Kemper ....

Then there are all the routine motorcades that must be faithfully recounted. In Fresno, Kemper wrote: "The motorcade from the burrito plant to the fundraiser, though it lasted 18 months and covered about 6,000 miles, was uneventful." And in Chicago: "Uneventful does not even begin to cover just how sensory-deprived that trip was."

On the plus side, the pool report provides a venue for lines that might not have a home elsewhere. Kemper called Bush adviser Karl Rove "that little leprechaun from the West Wing" and noted Bush's difficulty with certain words, writing: "Highlight was POTUS working Nuke-leer-or and Pen-in-su-lar into the same sentence."

Still, despair often overwhelms the pooler, and Kemper was no exception. In California, he wrote: "You heard the speech. If not today, then 10,000 times before." Over the Pacific, he lamented: "Thirteen hours into pool duty, and still no news in sight." And after a visit to Westminster Abbey, he began: "No news. Little color. Frankly, you have better things to do."

Of course, others have taken advantage of the medium - like the WP's own Dana Milbank:

Time Marine One pulled up at Andrews: 8:47. Wheels up for Air Force One: 8:57. Numbers of engines on Air Force One: four. Time aloft: 1:16. Having your pool report distributed to the White House staff and a thousand strangers, priceless.

And here's another Milbank report.

And Wonkette digs into the WH pool reports on a regular basis.

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