It's almost here: the day the White House press corps moves back into the West Wing. The shift begins July 3 and the newly renovated press area officially opens on July 11 with a ribbon-cutting, with the first briefing planned for the following day.
But it almost didn't happen, thanks to a little issue called fire. Steve Scully, the C-SPAN bigwig who heads the White House Correspondents' Association, said that the company that did the work built the newswire booths 6 inches too wide, limiting the pathway space for emergency evacuations. Worse, on the other side of the aisle were to be desks with chairs on rollers, and the fire marshal was concerned that they might be in the way of those trying to escape during a fire alarm. Facing an opening delay, Scully had two choices: Make room by eliminating some of the desks used by newspaper and magazine reporters, or install long cafeteria-style tables with stools bolted into the floor.
"It would have been like being on an Acela train," he groaned. So the association recommended losing four desks, and the opening is on again.
When reporters finally see the renovation, they will find a better-organized home with lots of new storage and production space for photographers. Most of the regular press -- TV, the wires, the major newspapers, and magazines -- will keep desks in the upstairs area, with radio and cable TV downstairs.