Since 1974, when she became the first woman assigned to cover the White House for a major television network full time, Ann Compton has covered history as it unfolded at the White House. As White House correspondent for ABC News, Compton was her audience’s witness to major world events, including a unique vantage point as one of the only reporters aboard Air Force One following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Throughout that time, though, she has also been a treasured friend to her fellows, and a warm, welcoming guide to newcomers on the White House beat.
On Tuesday, Ann attended her final briefing in the James Brady Briefing Room, after which colleagues, competitors, and White House officials gathered to say goodbye. Once the corks had been popped on the Chandon (and several bottles of it tragically spilled) and the rum cake had been cut, the guest of honor arrived. The remarks that were made in Ann Compton’s honor, and by her, contain a journalism class’ worth of insight and history, which is why I’ve gathered them all here.
Christi Parsons Toasts Ann Compton
Current White House Correspondents’ Association President Christi Parsons began with a characteristic tale of Ann’s generous spirit, and an expression of how immeasurably she will be missed. Ann responded with a brief, tearful remembrance of her early days in the press corps, and a characteristic bit of agitation for more access:
Bill Plante and Major Garrett Toast Ann Compton
CBS Radio News White House Correspondent Bill Plante delivered a typically brief toast that was heavy on the crust, followed by CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett. Major spoke for many of us when he described the influence that Ann’s trailblazing career has had on young reporters, and the validation that came simply from occupying space in the briefing room with her, but he also described the craft that Ann brought to bear on the beat:
Jon Karl Toasts Ann Compton
Next, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl lauded Ann for her tireless advocacy for more press access, her history-making career, and her role as gentle rope-shower, and added the surpprise revelation that when Mark Knoller first arrived on the beat, Ann was waiting there for him. Most of us assumed Knoller cut his teeth sometime during the Caligula administration. CNN’s Michelle Kosonski also contributed a brief anecdote about Ann’s helpful streak:
Ann Compton Reveals How She Met Dick Cheney
After a brief, uproarious recollection of a night in Istanbul, by Major Garrett, Ann thanked the assembled crowd, and recounted how she first met future Vice President Dick Cheney:
Carol Lee Toasts Ann Compton, More Dick Cheney
The Wall Street Journal’s Carol Lee thanked Ann for her influential career, and praised her partying stamina, while Mark Knoller grilled Ann about her relationship with Dick Cheney:
April Ryan Toasts Ann Compton
AURN’s April Ryan, who is also a strong influence on White House reporters new and old, told of her travels with Ann, and praised her as a role model for women working at the White House:
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Toasts Ann Compton
Josh Earnest explained how Ann understood the culture of the White House, and how to get across the press’ expectations, but added, “What’s distinguishing about her is the generous spirit in which she is eager to see the White House succeed, and that she does not see that as being at odds with her commitment to holding the administration accountable, and to insisting on transparency and access, and telling the story about what’s happening to the American people,” and added, “That’s a really classy thing.”
True to form, Ann responded by pressing for more access to presidential photo ops.
Ann Thanks Dr. Martha Joynt Kumar, the White House Staff
Dr. Kumar presented Ann with a card, and Ann thanked and recognized her for her work, and thanked the White House staff, and then we all drank more champagne:
My own recollections of Ann are of a similar stripe to those gathered here. On a personal level, Ann has been like a night light for me since my earliest days at the White House, which weren’t that long ago. It’s an intimidating beat for anyone, let alone an aged rookie outsider, but Ann Compton always provided a warm, comforting glow when I (frequently) felt I was stumbling.
Professionally, Ann was a similarly steady beacon. Especially at the beginning, I spent many a late night at the White House, and Ann was among a very small number of reporters who just always seemed to be there, head down, hard at work. I was telling a friend, this week, that one of the validations of a certain White House reporter I admire is the fact that I’d rarely had occasion to clip him when I worked at Mediaite, where ostentatious displays of reportorial plumage were golden currency. (I do not exclude myself from that category.)
Ann was such a reporter, who worked hard, who knew, better than most of us, what the job really is, and did it well. Hers is an example that will be sorely missed, if not widely followed.
Note: For more White House photos, follow Tommy Christopher’s Twitter feed.