On the Plane

Fewer Reporters on Rice's Plane

BRUSSELS, March 6--When Condoleezza Rice became Secretary of State, she was treated like an instant rock star. There was such demand to chronicle her maiden overseas voyage in 2005 that an unprecedented 19 reporters were given seats on her plane. Many were television correspondents.

Rice, now in her final year as Secretary, scored a minor diplomatic advance this week when she convinced Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to restart peace talks with Israel. But there are vastly fewer reporters around to record her acheivement.

The three wire services--Associated Press, Reuters and Agence-France Presse--are on board. Bloomberg News and National Public Radio took seats. But only three newspapers--The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Washington Times--are on the plane, down from the standard five. And the networks did not even bother to send a camera crew, let alone a correspondent.

Rice has kept up a grueling travel schedule over the past three years, making her the most traveled Secretary of State since Henry Kissinger. She was in Africa two weeks ago, Asia last week, the Middle East and Europe this week and heads to South America next week.

But with newsroom budgets shrinking, the administration fading away and the riveting race for the Democratic presidential nomination still going, there is much less focus on covering her efforts. Only wire services were offered seats on the plane for her upcoming South America trip.

Rice used to set aside an evening on just about every long trip to have an off-the-record meal with reporters. Many found the sessions provided an interesting insight into her thinking that helped inform their articles and reports. But the dinners are no more.

The last such meal Rice has held was more than a year ago, in Jerusalem in February 2007. State Department officials say Rice still wants to dine with reporters, but her schedule has been too packed to set aside time for the dwindling band of journalists who follow her.

-- Glenn Kessler

By Washington Post Editor |  March 6, 2008; 6:25 AM ET
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Thank God we don't see any more of that ugly sourpuss. What a jerk.

Posted by: Mr. Misogynist | March 6, 2008 08:19 AM

Re the dinner question, the owner of her principal caterer, Bernie's New York Deli of K Street, has seen costs rise and is a committed Hillary supporter.

Posted by: Rockley P. Bilgewhistle IV | March 6, 2008 09:39 AM

Thank you, Glenn, for reporting the news about Sec. Condi and her recent flight to the Middle East. BBC has reported her efforts to bring Abbas back to the table for talks with Olmert and his people. She is still seen as a ROCK STAR by the Republicans, and still maintains high job approval ratings. She has a firm foothold with the leaders in the region, and her efforts to bring the King of Jordan and other Arab leaders to help on the Roadmap to Peace. If she is successful in maintaining the effort to stop Hamas from sabotaging the plan, it will be seen as Noble Peace Prize quality. Now that is newsworthy.

Posted by: Dave | March 6, 2008 10:46 AM

Could it be they're keeping Condi out of view, b/c of Hilary and Barack? The Republican party is trotting out the same old, same old for president, and the Democratic party has a woman or a Black man for choices? And having Condi in plain view, shows you can have a Black or a woman who's skilled enough to lead our government.

Posted by: Otherview | March 6, 2008 10:53 AM

Re: Otherviews... to say Condi is skilled enough to run our government ignores her very poor performance. She headed NSA when 9/11 occured and has overseen this country's declining image abroad over the last 4 years. Not to ignore Bush's role, of course.

Posted by: myalaska | March 7, 2008 04:04 PM

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