Covering Obama's Hawaii Vacation

There's a "protective" pool of reporters that follow President-elect Barack Obama every day and report everything he does, even when what he does is not newsworthy, which is often. That's especially true on Christmas but still the reports must come. The Chicago Tribune's John McCormick talks about covering Obama's vacation.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

What, you asked, does president-elect of the United States, a.k.a. POTUS Barack Obama, do on a given day? Well, several times every day I get emails from what's known as the protective pool, the rotating band of reporters who make sure that no Obama deed goes unreported. The emails document his whereabouts in granular detail. Here's one.

Mr. JOHN MCCORMICK (Reporter, Chicago Tribune): Barack Obama left his vacation home at 7:19 AM and the motorcade traveled to the Semper Fit Center on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, arriving 7:29 AM. At 9:05 AM, Obama left the center and greeted several dozen soldiers and their families standing in the parking lot. He was wearing a black hat, grey T-shirt and black sweat pants. He and Michelle Obama, who was wearing sunglasses, shook hands with the group for about three minutes. The pool was held too far away to hear any of the conversations. As Obama left the group, he yelled out one of his standard, see you guys. The motorcade left the fitness center at 9:08 AM, and arrived back at the vacation home at 9:17 AM. We are now holding nearby and have not been given any guidance on the schedule for the rest of the day. John McCormick, Chicago Tribune.

SIEGEL: John McCormick has done his share of pool duty, and has even won a Poolitzer Prize, that's p-o-o-l, an honor bestowed informally by NationalJournal.com to pool reports than, in its words, achieve an extraordinarily high level of detailed prose, humor, drama and any combination thereof. John McCormick, welcome to the program.

Mr. MCCORMICK: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Explain to people who are not familiar with it, the idea, the point of the pool.

Mr. MCCORMICK: It's essentially sort of to provide an eyes and ears on what a president or a president-elect is doing, and it's an ability to get reporters in - sometimes into small spaces where the entire press corps could not fit.

SIEGEL: And as we heard in your pool report, the one that you read for us, some standard elements are precise time of day, wardrobe, comings and goings, and whatever conversations you can pick up. The only missing element I think would be what we could consider some kind of news.

Mr. MCCORMICK: Yes. They had warned us of that, of course, that they weren't expecting to make a lot of news here during his vacation in Hawaii. But so far, it's been a very news-free trip.

SIEGEL: And while you're being a foot soldier in the legions of the news media, your loved ones are there with you in Hawaii perhaps?

Mr. MCCORMICK: No, unfortunately they are up in Minnesota, my native state.

SIEGEL: And do you share with them the excitement that you are experiencing every day as you follow the president-elect around?

Mr. MCCORMICK: No, I mean I share with phone calls some things that I see and hear. But I don't think my wife has subscribed to the pool report list. So she's interested in what happens, but she's not interested in this level of detail.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: OK.

Mr. MCCORMICK: But she's been giving me her own pool reports on what's taking place at Christmas up in Minnesota.

SIEGEL: Well, John McCormick of the Chicago Tribune and sometime member of the protective pool that covers Barack Obama's whereabouts, thanks a lot for talking to us.

Mr. MCCORMICK: Thank you.

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