Reporters who cover the White House may soon be paying what amounts to an admission fee to do their jobs, reports The Washington Post.
Starting Monday, the White House’s press office said it will start charging journalists for coronavirus tests, which are required for anyone entering the White House grounds.
The proposed cost for each test: $170.
With dozens of journalists at the White House each day, the fees could add up to tens of thousands of dollars flowing from newsrooms, many of them small and cash-strapped, into government coffers.
Until now, the cost of testing has been borne by the White House. But officials there contend that the cost of maintaining the testing regime for nearly a year has strained its budget. So it wants to shift the burden onto news organizations: No test, no entry to the White House.
The plan has alarmed the White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents reporters in issues affecting the presidential press corps. The organization has objected to the proposal because of the financial burden it would impose on news organizations, especially smaller ones for whom a $170 daily fee would be onerous.
News organizations have long paid many of the costs of covering the White House. When reporters travel with the president on Air Force One, for example, they are billed by the White House for the trip.
But health and security measures have typically been the responsibility of the White House — in other words, taxpayers — not news organizations. “Nobody asked us to pay a fee to put up the fence,” said one journalist, referring to new security barriers around the White House complex.
After prodding from the correspondents’ association, White House officials agreed this week to accept proof of an outside test as an alternative condition for entry. Private tests in the region range from around $50 to $200 or more, depending on the speed, location and method used. But it’s still unclear what kinds of outside tests would satisfy the White House.
In another concession, the White House officials agreed to continue covering the costs of tests administered to pool reporters — those assigned to follow the president when he travels and for those attending daily press briefings.