Mark Knoller is arguably the most important White House correspondent you never see. The CBS reporter has covered every president since Gerald Ford, keeps such detailed notes on presidential movements that the president's team taps his records, and has been rewarded with several journalism awards.
So who better in the White House press corps to review the past five Summer White Houses than the long-time radio reporter? As President Obama gets ready to kick off his longest vacation of the year in Martha's Vineyard this weekend, our assignment to Knoller was to tell us the highlights and lowlights of covering Ronald Reagan's Santa Barbara, Calif., George H.W. Bush's Kennebunkport, Maine, Bill Clinton's Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Martha's Vineyard, and George H.W. Bush's Crawford Texas. [View a slide show of 5 notable summer White House destinations.]
SANTA BARBARA, CA: The dateline says it all. The press hotel was across the street from the beach. Three White House briefings a week, tops. President Reagan rarely left his ranch during his vacations, so there was no all-day travel pool duty or spending hours in a van or mini-bus waiting for presidential movements. Even if you had to file reports, you could be done by 7:00 p.m. Eastern time and it was still only 4:00 p.m. in Santa Barbara.
KENNEBUNKPORT, ME: After eight years of presidential vacations on the Pacific, reporters switched coasts to cover President George H.W. Bush at his vacation home on the Atlantic. Bush wasn't a vacation recluse and would embark on vacation outings to play golf, go for power walks on the beach, or go fishing and speed boating on the Atlantic. Kennebunkport was a far smaller town than Santa Barbara and would often get clogged by traffic jams. But reporters could keep a closer eye on the president.
MARTHA'S VINEYARD: Bill Clinton spent six of his eight presidential summers in and around Edgartown on the Vineyard. Lots of late night pool duty for reporters who would babysit Clinton's motorcade while he had dinner with a variety of friends and other island VIPs. He once went sailing with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Another time with Walter Cronkite. The vineyard's popularity produced crowded restaurants, traffic jams, and hard-to-find parking. [Read 10 Things You Didn't Know About Martha's Vineyard.]
JACKSON HOLE, WY: Twice, on the advice of political adviser Dick Morris, President Clinton vacationed in the Cowboy State. In the shadow of the Grand Tetons, Jackson had the most breathtaking scenery of any presidential vacation venue. Warm by day, cool by night. Hiking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting that had nothing to do with prosecutor Ken Starr's investigations of the Clintons.
CRAWFORD, TX: Most under-rated of recent presidential vacation destinations. Yes, it's hot there in August. Very hot. Also dry and dusty–though you need be on the watch for occasional cloudbursts that produce damaging floods. But it's a great place to get away from the hectic pace of D.C. No traffic jams in Crawford and parking was never a problem (except during Cindy Sheehan protests). The town had one stoplight and reporters could park right in front of the middle school serving as the press filing center. Dining and lodging was in Waco, just 25 minutes away. Also Baylor let reporters use its gym.
From Mark's official bio:
Mark Knoller is an award-winning White House correspondent for CBS News. During his more than three decades as a reporter, he has covered every president since Gerald Ford.
Knoller came to CBS News in 1988 after 13 years with the Associated Press Radio Network, where he was on the frontlines of national news coverage on stories as diverse as presidential campaigns, hurricanes and the death of Elvis Presley.
After serving three years as Assignment Manager in the CBS News Washington bureau, Knoller returned to the White House beat in 1992, where he covered the last year of the first Pres. George Bush. He has since covered the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Knoller has established a niche on the beat. His meticulous records on presidential travel and other activities are widely cited and praised by competing news organizations. He has been honored with a number of AP Awards and with the Merriman Smith Award for "Deadline Reporting on the Presidency" and the Aldo Beckman Award for journalistic excellence on the White House beat, both bestowed by the White House Correspondents' Association. He has three times been cited as one of Washington's most influential reporters. And in June 2007, he was inducted into the D.C. Journalism Hall of Fame by the Society of Professional Journalists.
In April of 2009, Knoller expanded his audience to include Twitter and quickly became a highly-regarded source for fast and reliable White House tweets, 140 characters at a time.
For eight years, he contributed weekly reports on the Presidency to "THE SATURDAY EARLY SHOW." His "Knoller's Beat" reports often provided unusual insights into aspects of the Presidency overlooked in the daily crush of spot news. He has also reported for the weekend editions of the CBS EVENING NEWS.
Knoller began his career in broadcast news at WNEW Radio in New York.