White House correspondent Ann Compton speaks in Tulsa
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Saturday, February 09, 2013
2/09/13 at 6:07 AM
When Ann Compton joined the White House press corps in 1974, being the first female television correspondent wasn't her biggest challenge.
"My challenge was I was young," said Compton, who was 26 when she started covering the White House for ABC News.
"I was sitting next to men who were in the motorcade when (John) Kennedy was shot. I was next to men who were war correspondents in Vietnam," she said. "Since I was so young, I had to work twice as hard."
Compton, who has now been in the business of reporting news for nearly 40 years, spoke to a nearly full house Friday at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Chapman Music Hall as part of the Tulsa Town Hall lecture series.
She has covered nine campaigns and seven presidents for ABC News.
In 2000, Compton was named chief Washington correspondent for ABCNews.com, where she wrote a daily political column, "On Background."
Before her presentation Friday, students from several area high schools got to ask Compton questions about her experiences.
They asked about security measures surrounding the president and the White House press corps, the most heart-wrenching stories she's covered, trials and tribulations of being one of the first women in the White House briefing room, and how to find true news among some of the seemingly biased news channels and websites.
Compton suggested visiting a variety of news websites and the more mainstream news outlets from major networks and broadcasters.
"You cannot get all your news from the same place," she said. "We live in a world that is fractured politically, and it's fractured our news media."
Compton also shared stories from her time working in Washington D.C., as a White House and Capitol Hill reporter. She recalled President Jimmy Carter charming her after her engagement and President Ronald Reagan calling to congratulate her the night her third child was born.
There are perks to covering the first family, including traveling with the president even when he goes on vacation.
Compton told the story of being in Jackson, Wyo., when President Bill and first lady Hillary Clinton were vacationing and she happened to eat at the same restaurant as the first family and their guest, actor Harrison Ford, who was researching his role in "Air Force One."
Getting to fly on Air Force One, the president's plane, is the biggest perk, she said. Reporters take turns being in the Air Force One press pool and gathering information to share with other reporters upon landing.
The most dramatic story Compton ever covered was when she was in the press pool on Air Force One with President George W. Bush on Sept. 11, 2001.
"It was my day to travel with the president to a sleepy town in Florida and cover a speech on education that we had heard a million times," she said.
But when Chief of Staff Andrew Card came into a classroom and whispered in Bush's ear, Compton said she knew something was happening.
"My jaw dropped, because you don't interrupt the president," she said.
Compton was one of only two reporters allowed to stay on Air Force One that day as it flew for 10 hours before landing in Washington, D.C., that evening so Bush could address the country.
Once they landed, Compton said she opened emails from her two sons - in college at the time - telling her that one of their fraternity brothers had been on the 93rd floor of the World Trade Center at his first job after graduation.
"That's when the story had a face to me," she said, "and I just sat there and cried."
Original Print Headline: Broadcast journalist recounts her storied White House career
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
As part of the Tulsa Town Hall lecture series, Ann Compton talks Friday about being a journalist at the White House. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World