For a very long time I have liked Mark Knoller for his voice. It has an official reporting sound to it, one that draws a listener to pay attention. In addition to his on-air command of an audience he is also a much respected reporter.
Every time that politicos get roiled about the number of days a president is on vacation we turn to Knoller for the numbers. Knoller is not just a reporter, but also a collector of data. For a long time reporters from time to time in interviews mention that if some arcane bit of presidential knowledge is to be known, Knoller will have it in his files.
With the latest surge of interest in how many days presidents are out of the Oval Office on vacation I thought CP readers might like to know more about the man who keeps a running tab on the numbers.
This article from the Wall Street Journal was penned in March 2010.
Mr. Knoller, a White House reporter for CBS Radio, has for two decades been the unofficial keeper of presidential data. The National Archives, the Smithsonian, the White House itself—none hold the cache of detail that Mr. Knoller has squirreled into his crumb-littered cubby in the White House briefing room.
Mr. Knoller’s database is the work of a self-described hoarder, filing milestones and minutiae of the American presidency. He shares his facts freely with others in the media, the White House and his more than 22,000 followers on Twitter, where the stocky, rumpled newsman known for his booming voice is the second-most followed CBS personality after Katie Couric.
“Mark is the unofficial historian of the White House,” says White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer. “When our numbers don’t match his, it usually turns out that he is right.”
On a trip to Asia last year, Mr. Obama touched down in Alaska and noted that he had visited all 50 states. Within minutes, Mr. Knoller clarified the record: Mr. Obama may have visited all 50 states in his lifetime, but only 28 as president.
Without somebody counting, “a lot of this vaporizes,” Mr. Knoller says. “I’ve got an assessment of the presidency that others don’t…I’m amused by it.”
Every evening, he updates his log of presidential activity, using White House transcripts, press releases, computer and handwritten notes (which he stores by date). Then he stores details in separate files, including: trips, foreign and domestic; proclamations; executive orders (and which of them are secret); bill signings; pardons; vetoes; meetings with foreign leaders; recreation and social functions.
He departs the White House after 8 p.m. and stops at a diner. Over dinner, he re-reads six newspapers, then puts them in the trunk of his car, just in case. “That is me at its essence,” he says. “A trunk stuffed with newspapers.”
Mr. Knoller is unmarried. His job, he says, “gives me a sense of achievement, fulfillment, contentment. I really long for very little else.”
“He is an aficionado of meat and potatoes,” says CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante, who has tried for 17 years to lure Mr. Knoller out for finer cuisine during presidential trips.