ABC News White House Reporter Ben Gittleson on Getting the Story Out

ABC News White House Reporter Ben Gittleson on Getting the Story Out

Jack Pasquale

You may never have seen ABC News White House reporter and producer Ben Gittleson but you have most likely heard him asking President Biden questions, some of which have gone viral. Covering The White House gives Mr. Gittleson a front row seat to news that moves the world. With the midterm elections now over, we thought it would be a good time to check-in with Mr. Gittleson on his amazing journey to The White House, learn more about challenges he faces and what he loves most about working so close to the President of the United States! 

We hope you enjoy this truly incredible exclusive interview with The Echo!


1. How long have you been reporting out of the White House?  

I’ve been reporting from the White House for over three years, as a reporter and producer for ABC News. I covered the end of the Trump administration and have covered the start of the Biden administration. I’ve worked for ABC for nine years. 


2. How did you get to the White House?  What did you study in college? 

In college, I studied international relations and Arabic, and I was the editor of my school’s daily newspaper. After graduating, I moved to Cairo to continue studying Arabic. The “Arab Spring” was underway, and I began to write articles as a freelance reporter. I interned for Al Jazeera English, and then I moved to New York and got a job with ABC News. I worked on our national and international desks, traveled the country reporting on the 2016 election as a “campaign embed,” and eventually moved to Washington to cover the White House. 


3. Your reporting covers a wide rage from the President to the border, hostages and other world affairs. How do you prioritize what you report on? 

ABC News’ audience is large and diverse, and we cover a broad array of topics on any one day. We’ll typically focus on what’s new that day – whether it’s a development in the war in Ukraine, a court ruling on Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, a law that’s passed, a natural disaster, or an announcement about COVID-related programs. At the same time, I like to continuously keep an eye on certain topics, particularly foreign policy, connecting regularly with officials and trying to push those stories forward. 


4. Do you prefer to be in front of the camera asking questions or at a desk writing an article? 

I love how no day is the same. On the same day, I could be writing an article, asking questions at a press briefing, shouting questions at the president, or even traveling with him around the country. I also really like seeing a story through from beginning to end: coming up with an idea of what to cover; finding characters; overseeing the filming and editing process; drafting a script; and writing an article to accompany it. 


5. What is the first question you asked President Biden? 

The first time I covered Joe Biden was during the transition to his presidency, two days before his inauguration. We were in Wilmington, Delaware, and I shouted to him from afar to ask how his inauguration speechwriting was going. He responded with a quick, “Good,” before hopping in his vehicle. I also had the opportunity to be in the Oval Office just hours after he had been sworn in. It’s traditional for an outgoing president to write a letter to his successor, and I asked Biden, What did President Trump write to you in his letter?” Biden called Trump’s letter “very generous” but wouldn’t share any details. 


6. What is your technique to get the President to hear and respond to you when so many other people are shouting at him at the same time? 

The second he finishes speaking and his aides are ready to push the press out of the room, you have to shout – typically breaking the silence. Questions have to be short, direct and clear; sometimes you’re shouting over the roar of a plane or helicopter. A good way to elicit a response is to challenge him to respond to criticism. It can sometimes be very awkward to shout in a room full of people, or at an event totally unrelated to what you’re asking, but those occasions are sometimes the only time we’ll see him that day, and it’s important to take every opportunity to question the president and try to get him to weigh in on pressing issues. 


7. What is most challenging part of your job?  

The hours and travel can be difficult on your family. You’re at the mercy of breaking news and dependent on the president’s schedule, and it’s a lot to ask your family to be flexible when you’re stuck at work early or late in the day – or traveling on someone else’s schedule. 


8. What do you love most about being a reporter?  

It’s a privilege to be able to ask questions for a living. From pressing the president and his advisers to learning about people’s lives, struggles, and dreams, I’m lucky to be able to help tell stories that can make a difference. I hope that my work educates viewers and readers and that it contributes to solutions to people’s problems. 


9. What is the most helpful advice you were ever given and who gave it to you? 

It’s rather simple, but my parents taught me to be kind to others. I think that’s important to remember, whether it’s when you’re dealing with colleagues or competitors – or with unfriendly officials. It always helps to remember to be kind to others.  


10. What advice would you give to aspiring high school journalists? 

I would recommend trying to get an internship at a news outlet. There’s nothing like actually learning on the job at a professional news organization. I would also think long and hard about whether it’s a profession you’re committed to, since the hours can be difficult and the job opportunities limited.