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Uncovering covering the White House

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VOA chief national correspondent outside the West Wing of the White House.
Sarah Silbiger/Courtesy

VOA chief national correspondent outside the West Wing of the White House.

The White House Press Corps serves as an essential link between the American people and the presidency, playing a critical role in both informing the public and holding the president accountable.

Reporters act as daily conduits of information, attending press briefings and relaying the administration's actions, decisions, and justifications directly to the public. This constant flow of news keeps citizens informed about the inner workings of government and allows them to form their own opinions on policy matters.

Beyond simply reporting pronouncements, the press corps functions as a vital watchdog. Journalists challenge presidential statements through pointed questions during press conferences, pressing for details and exposing inconsistencies. This scrutiny helps ensure transparency and prevents the president from acting without public awareness.

Steven L. Herman is the chief national correspondent for the nonpartisan, government-funded Voice of America (VOA), weaves together memoir and history to pull back the curtain on the inner workings of the White House press corps, giving readers a rare glimpse into the historic and current relationship between the president and the press.

Herman reflects on the experience of reporting on Donald Trump who called journalists “enemies of the people.” While president, Trump singled out VOA, accusing the organization of being, not a voice of America, but rather a voice supporting Moscow’s and Beijing’s interests.

Under questionable circumstances, top VOA executives lost their security clearances, and a dossier was prepared on Herman in an effort to remove him as White House bureau chief. With journalistic independence under threat, Herman feared not only for his career but also for “the soul of the Voice of America.”

Throughout "Behind the White House Curtain," Herman convincingly argues that public access to accurate, unbiased information is essential to a healthy and peaceful democracy. Herman says journalists can and should play a key role in pressing government officials to be truthful and transparent. At a time when misinformation is rampant and the need for unbiased coverage of current events is more urgent than ever, Herman reminds readers that freedom of the press is a foundational American right.

Steven L. Herman is the chief national correspondent for Voice of America (VOA). He is the author of "Behind the White House Curtain."

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org.

This interview will be recorded on Monday, June 10, 2024.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi