The White House Press Charters

The White House Pan Am press charter arrives in Athens Greece in July 1991,photo by Dennis Brack

The White House Pan Am press charter arrives in Athens Greece in July 1991,photo by Dennis Brack

Reporters and photographers have traveled with president for years on ships, trains, and busses.  This travel is NOT at the expense of the United States Tax payer.  The press pays their own way.  Since the Truman administration the airline charter has been the usual transportation.  All of the expenses on a trip,  (the airline charter, the ground transportation, the telephone lines, everything) is added up and then divided by the number of press on the particular trip,  There is always a media pool on Air Force One and each member of the pool pays the same amount as the press on the charter.  The cost of the charter has increased and the number of media traveling with the president have decreased, so the cost of the seats for the traveling presidential press today has become frightfully expensive. One of the last trips to the Far East ran from sixty to seventy-five thousand dollars a seat.  The press charters are decreasing in number and coverage is often left to the Air Force One pool.  Of course, each organization in the Air Force One pool pays for this travel.

National Airlines was the first airline to fly a press charter. It was from Washington National Airport to Boca Chita, Florida.  President Truman read his morning news thanks to a daily delivery of the New York and Washington newspapers courtesy of John Morris, the National Airlines vice president. The first overseas press charter flight, in October 1950, was a Pan American World Airways Stratocruiser that accompanied Truman from Washington to St. Louis, San Francisco, Hawaii and then Wake Island for a meeting between Truman and General Douglas MacArthur. Pan American was the logical choice for the

The White House press coming down the steps of a Pan Am press charter at the summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland on October 11, 1986  Photo by Dennis Brack

The White House press coming down the steps of a Pan Am press charter at the summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland on October 11, 1986 Photo by Dennis Brack

charter because it had been serving Wake Island for years as a refueling stop for its sea planes. On the island, Truman rested for an hour or two at the quonset living quarters of the Pan American station manager.

The press charters were part of the Carter travel to Japan in 1979 to attend an economic summit.  Economic summits were major stories in the seventies and eighties. It was planned as a long trip covering Japan and Korea, but the stop that was of particular interest to the members of the press was a three- day rest stop in Hawaii on the return. In Korea, Carter feared that pictures of the president and first lady relaxing on a beach would not be received favorably while Americans were waiting in long gas lines so he decided to return to Washington. No three-day rest stop. The press was not happy and decided to party. Drinks flowed, and soon a couple with their earphones on started dancing in the aisles. Others followed and the entire plane turned into a disco—not your average airline flight.

Naomi Nover was not your average correspondent. Always in a blue dress, sometimes one with white polka dots, she made all of the foreign trips during the Carter years—and those during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Her husband, Barney Nover, had been a correspondent for the Washington Post and the Denver Post. When he retired in 1971 he founded the Nover News Service with his wife. After her husband’s death, Naomi Nover kept her press creden- tials. No one could ever find a client for the Nover News Service, but that did not stop her. She would sign up for every foreign presidential trip and was the first to send in a check for the White House travel

Naomi takes a picture of the Press at the Ambassador's residence in London, UK

Naomi takes a picture of the Press at the Ambassador’s residence in London, UK

office invoice.  Naomi—everyone knew her by her first name—had a grand- motherly, Mrs. Doubtfire-like appearance that disguised an aggressive force not to be taken lightly. Once, at the Capitol, she rushed to the ladies room, only to find all of the stalls occupied. She managed to open one, ripped a woman off the toilet, and yelled, “Sorry, I’m on deadline.” The thing was, Naomi had no deadlines.

Photographers tried to give Naomi a wide berth, but it was difficult. She carried a point-and-shoot camera and thought she was entitled to be in the photographers’ areas. During a trip to Britain, Carter was working a rope line in Newcastle when he lifted a plump, ugly baby. For photographer Dick Swanson, on assignment for People, it was a perfect picture. He did a “Hail Mary” over Naomi to take the photo. She turned so that she was facing Swanson, smiled, and with all her strength kneed him in the groin.

More than once, members of the White House travel office staff had to run to escape Naomi’s umbrella as she swung it toward their heads. Hotel staff also could suffer her wrath. Naomi complained about her bill at one hotel, but the clerk told her that records showed that she had cleared out the mini bar. She opened her huge blue purse and dumped a refrigerator full of little bottles on the hotel’s counter.   Naomi was always trying to sneak into press pools. When President Ronald Reagan and the first lady were touring the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, China, she was determined to get in the floor pool position.   A Chinese guard blocked her. Gary Schuster, a reporter for the Detroit News, pointed to Naomi and showed the guard a one-dollar bill with its presidential portrait—Naomi did look a lot like George Washington—and told the guard, “Very famous.” The guard bowed and allowed her to join the photographers.

Naiomi Nover in April 1978 Photo by Dennis Brack

Naiomi Nover in April 1978
Photo by Dennis Brack

  • Presidents and Photographers Talk

    DB LBJ Scar 1The Arlington Central Library taped a talk that I did recently.  Rob Farr and Peter Golkin did an excellent job. Take a look.

  • Snow Day at the White House

    Photographs by Dennis Brack

    White House in the snow

    President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico  is making an official visit to the White House and then staying for lunch.  Protocol calls for an honor guard for the arrival and the Old Guard would not be stopped by one to three inches of snow.  It was quickly cleared by the Department of Interior brand new John Deer minitractors–the White House is a national park afterall.

    Washington Snow.Pebble Beach was iced over.  The stakeout cameras pointed towards West Executive Avenue were frozen.

    Washington Snow.



    One of the stakeout tripods was frozen solid.  Never buy a used stake out tripod.Photo by Dennis Brack

  • Something that you don’t see at the White House

    Reagan Gorbachev SummitUsually there is a single Marine guard at the entrance of the official visitors reception area of the White House.  Two Marines guarding the doors to the Cabinet Room–never.  But  in December 1987 things were a little different. The Marine guards were part of the elaborate planning of the Reagan administration for the Reagan Gorbachev Summit.

  • Memorial Service for Michel du Cille, Friday Jan 16 in Washington

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  • POLITICO: Photographs that will change your view of Washington: A Different End of the Year Photo Contest

    Politico contestDennis Brack, photojournalist; Melissa Golden, photojournalist and president-elect of Women Photojournalists of Washington; Brooks Kraft, photojournalist; and Lance Rosenfield, photojournalist were asked to look at a selection of photographs from the Associated Press, Getty Images, and other sources for this contest.  The challenge was to find a new way of seeing a city that has been seen and photographed  by amateurs and professionals for 16 and a half decades.  Sure, there were photographs there were near what we have seen over the years, but it is a refreshing look and well worth your time.

  • The Yearend News Conference–always fun.

    Obama 12 19 14                    Photos by Dennis Brack

    The news conference that a president holds as he is about to depart for a Christmas vacation is a tradition.  Better to have it in Washington than at the  nineteenth green of a Hawaiian golf course.  This year it was especially crowded–no moving around for photographers.

    Obama 12 19 14President Obama called on only women reporters and not the women reporters from the networks.  In fact no network correspondents were tagged for a question.  One was a little unhappy.

    Photo by Dennis Brack


    Recording the President’s answers with all forms of communication

    Photo by Dennis Brack


    Kevin Lamarque and Scotty Applewhite in cramped quarters



    Obama Pool



    A few after the news conference the Obama’s left for Hawaii.

    First the President and Sasha and later the First Lady and Malia.




    Marine One lifted off from the South Lawn of the White House for the short flight to Andrews Air Force Base.

    Obama Pool

  • The White House News Photographers Association newsletter, THE REPORT is available.

    Report screen grab



    Recent stories about photographers and wonderful tribute to Michel du Cille by Dudley Brooks

    url below

  • The Kennedy Center Honors

    37th Kennedy Center  Honorees:  Al Green,  Tom Hanks, Patricia McBride and  husband, Sting, Lily Tomlin. All Photographs by Dennis Brack

    37th Kennedy Center Honorees: Al Green, Tom Hanks, Patricia McBride and husband, Sting, Lily Tomlin.
    All Photographs by Dennis Brack

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    The Honorees,  Al Green,  Tom Hanks, Patricia McBride and  husband, Sting,  and Lily Tomlin were the big draw.


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  • The Photo District News Interview of Photographer Stephen Crowley is a must Read

    Take a few moments to read David Walker’s interview of Stephen Crowley. What’s Your Niche: Stephen Crowley, Political Photojournalist

    Steve is a great photographer and views the same events that we all cover in a very distinctive way.