Friday, October 31, 2014

White House Charges $60K a Head for Next Charter; I Got a Bargain with Cuomo

Then Again, Watertown's a Little Cheaper to Get to than Beijing

For news organizations who want to cover President Obama's on his next swing through Asia, getting a seat on the press charter isn't a problem. Getting accounting to pay for the trip is another story.

The Washington Post reports each journalist who wants to span the globe with POTUS will first have to ante up $60,000 for a seat. And that doesn't include meals, hotels and so-called ground costs. That'll set the journos back another $10K or so. No word yet on whether the White House will include sodas and an in-flight movie to soften the blow.

That's a lot of samoleans to watch a lame-duck president commune with heads of state, but the big dogs will invariably be on the plane, though they'll be bringing fewer puppies along for the ride. Too many kibbles for a likelihood of not too many bits of news.

Back when I was a reporter for UPI in Albany in the mid-1980s, I took several day trips with Gov. Mario Cuomo as he made public appearances across the state. Interest in Cuomo was high, at a time when he still hadn't decided whether to run for president. UPI was still a viable news service then, at least in name, if not on its balance sheet (the company had gone Chapter 11 in 1985).

Getting a seat on the prop plane wasn't an issue. Only a handful of reporters would be on one of these trips, where you would sit across from him on a bench seat. Maybe he'd give you some news on the flight out--and that would be your story--rather than what Cuomo would actually speak about on the ground. The flight back to Albany was generally off the record or inconsequential; Cuomo would chat with us then about other besides politics.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which was in charge of the governor's plane would, every now and then, send a bill to my office, in essence charging UPI for letting me ride on a plane that was making the trip anyway. Typically, the bill was in the $200-$300 range. I dutifully put it in my manager's box. And it was dutifully forgotten by everyone, including the state. Just as well. UPI was never big on accounts receivable.

The White House, on the other hand? They don't strike me as IOU types. I suspect there may be a few UPI veterans there. They know better.

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