Gallery’s New Director Breaks Mold

Posted September 17, 2013 at 6:29pm

The Standing Committee of Correspondents’ choice of C-SPAN Producer Annie Tin to direct the House Print Press Gallery came as a surprise to some Capitol Hill observers, who have watched many veterans of the daily gallery staff climb the ranks to leadership.

In May, on the other side of the Capitol, Senate Daily Press Gallery Director Joe Keenan retired after 35 years of service. He was replaced in June by Deputy Director Laura Eckart, who joined the gallery as a full-time staffer in 1997.

Tin’s predecessor, Jerry Gallegos, joined the staff of the gallery in 1969, working for 28 years there before being promoted to superintendent in 1997. He retired in August with 44 years under his belt.

With the exits of Gallegos and Keenan, the galleries lost nearly 80 years of experience.

“There’s a huge loss of in terms of the institutional knowledge,” Eckart said Tuesday. “The good thing is, I have a great relationship with Joe Keenan. He and I talk on a regular basis, so I always have him to go back to.

“It’s our job to negotiate with the Senate to get as much access as possible for reporters, while still dealing with the constraints of security  . . .  advocating on the press’ behalf for as much access as possible, and negotiating for more committee access and more second-floor access,” Eckart said. “Our job is largely diplomatic, I would say.”

Eckart and other gallery staff play no role in filling vacancies in the office. Those decisions are up to the Standing Committee of Correspondents, a five-member board of journalists responsible for credentialing members of the press and administrating the galleries.

David Lightman, a McClatchy correspondent who chairs the committee, announced Tin’s new gig Monday in a statement that noted “she is well-known to reporters throughout Washington and throughout the Capitol, thanks to her work at C-SPAN.”

Tin has worked as C-SPAN’s senior House and Senate Capitol Hill producer since 1997 and also worked at Congressional Quarterly, the Orlando Sentinel and the Chicago Tribune.

Lightman declined to elaborate further on the choice Tuesday, citing privacy in personnel decisions. But he did offer examples of other daily press gallery staffers with journalistic backgrounds when asked.

Joan McKinney, the former deputy director of the Senate Press Gallery, spent decades as a Washington correspondent for the Baton Rouge Advocate and was a longtime member of the Gridiron Club for newspaper writers.

Beth Crowley, a current staffer at the Senate Press Gallery, worked at the Wall Street Journal, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call’s CongressNow.

Justin Supon, the current deputy director of the House Daily Press Gallery, spent 10 years with UPI before being brought onboard the gallery staff in 1998. Supon said his time as a journalist makes him better able to act as a diplomat between the press and the House, making sure both have their needs met. He also said he has an understanding of the “pressure of the deadline.”

Both Supon and Eckert congratulated Tin on her promotion. Tin declined to comment for this story.