By: Joe Strupp
If you ever wondered what happened to Jeff Gannon, the former conservative reporter whose questionable White House credentialing and ties to several sex Web sites forced him out of a job, wonder no more.
The one-time reporter for Talon News, whose easy press pass access and softball questions sparked a review of White House credentialing policies three years ago, is still in the Washington news game. This time at the National Press Club.
Since 2006, Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, has been a member in good standing and currently serves on two press club committees, according to the esteemed journalistic organization. He also blogs on the Press Club Web site, as well as on his own online page, with a lot to say recently about the new book by his old source, White House ex-spokesman Scott McClellan.
“I am not going to go away in the face of adversity,” Gannon, 51, told E&P, referring to the negative attention he received in 2005 when questions about his press access to presidential briefings were raised. “Sticking up for free speech is a particularly good thing to do.”
Gannon was forced to resign his job with Talon News in the Spring of 2005 after it was revealed he had used a pseudonym, had little journalism background, and had ties to several gay sex Web sites.
Today, he has no full-time position at a news outlet, but he explained, “for a single person, blogging can be profitable.”
Press Club rules require that a new member be sponsored by at least two current members in good standing. Gannon said Rick Dunham, then with BusinessWeek and now a Houston Chronicle reporter, was one of his sponsors. He said he could not remember the other.
“My goal was to expand our membership into blogging and multimedia,” Dunham, who was press club president in 2005, recalls about why he sponsored Gannon. “He was one who could do that.”
Currently, Gannon serves on the press club’s New Media Committee and Newsmakers Committee. The latter decides which “newsmakers” to invite to some Press Club events.
“He is an active member of the club, there is no reason he can’t be on any of the club’s committees,” said Cary O’Reilly, a Bloomberg News reporter and chair of the Newsmakers Committee. “We need everyone we can get.”
Sylvia Smith, press club president and a reporter for The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Ind., declined to comment on Gannon’s membership, saying, “I don’t want to comment on any club members.”
But Dunham said Gannon is very active in the club: “I have not heard any bad developments with him in my time at the press club.”
Gannon’s ability to gain regular access to daily White House briefings, despite not being able to obtain a permanent “hard pass” or a congressional press pass, sparked new discussions among reporters and White House staff about who should be granted regular access at the time. Gannon boasts that he was a pioneer in online-only White House access and coverage.
At one point, the White House Correspondents Association held several meetings on the issue, but eventually chose not to seek changes to the credentialing process, which effectively leaves such access decisions to the White House press office.
Gannon received even more negative attention when his photo appeared on several escort web sites. “Those were unsubstantiated rumors,” he said Tuesday when asked about the alleged prostitution ties. “That is outrageous.”
Gannon said he sought to join the press club in 2006 because he wanted to be involved in its many events and programs, which include bringing top-name speakers to appear. He had appeared on a panel about blogging and new media in April 2005, shortly after he left the White House reporting ranks.
“I support a lot of the luncheons and programs down there,” Gannon said. “I think the press club recognizes what some people on the left can’t accept — that I covered the White House for two years, my past private life had nothing to do with how I got into the White House and how I got my job.”
The Press Club Web site’s blogging section describes Gannon as “the first exclusively online reporter to ever cover the White House on a daily basis. His commentary and analysis website is ‘Jeff Gannon – A Voice of the New Media.’ Jeff Gannon is the author of the 2007 book, ‘The Great Media War: A Battlefield Report.”
The book, self-published, can also be found on Gannon’s personal blog, www.jeffgannon.com. “I had total editorial control,” he said about why he self-published. “And the turnaround time was very good.”
On his Press Club blog, Gannon has opined on Code Pink, the anti-war group, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s controversial former pastor, who appeared at the press club several months ago.
“The National Press Club should do more events of this nature, regardless of the outcome,” he blogged about the Wright visit. “While I bristled when serial liars Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame received a hero?s welcome at the Club, at least the working press had a chance to question them, however uncritically it did so. I strongly believe that every President of the United States should address the Club each year. It would probably provide a fairer forum than that the ideologically homogenous White House Press Corps.”
Gannon said he plans to continue such blogging efforts on both sites, noting “I am doing more commentary and analyzing and not really reporting. I am going to be writing a lot about [the presidential campaign]. How the traditional media is actively campaigning for Barack Obama.”
He stressed he could return to White House coverage anytime he wants: “There is no reason why I couldn’t go there, it is just not the territory I am covering.”