At international summits, world leads like to be seen meeting other world leaders. But when world leaders converge, as they did today on Huntsville, Ont.'s Deerhurst Resort [map], many journalists from those countries also converge in a bid to chronicle everything that their leader is doing at these summits.
This leads to a basic logistical problem: For any given meeting in a small room between two world leaders, there are way too many reporters and photographers who want to be in the room to witness the meeting as there are spots in the room for said journalists. And thus was born the concept of the press pool.
Here's the basic rule. If four reporters show up and are prepared to cover an event but there is only one spot at the event, then the four reporters agree to “pool” their coverage and one volunteer steps forward to actually cover the event on everyone's behalf. In other words, one reporter goes in to the event, writes up a thorough, comprehensive account of the event and, before publishing that event to his or her own agency, distributes it to all the other pool participants so that everyone has the same chance to get the news out first.
It works the same way with photos or television news cameras: One camera or camera crew goes in and then distributes the pictures to all the other camera crews that were present and ready to go in to the event. If there are costs associated with staffing an event and transmitting the pictures, then the pool participants also share the costs.
So this morning, it feel to me to be the Canadian pool reporter for three bilateral meetings Prime Minister Stephen Harper had with three other leaders here at the G8 summit. Not knowing what other details other pool participants might want — and the pool participants in this case are the 300 or so members of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery — a pool reporter tends to favour being comprehensive to the point of provinding as much trivia as possible for the photo ops at the beginning of these meetings. The photo ops, incidentally, can last from 30 seconds to about 90 seconds before reporters are kicked out and the leaders can get on with divvying up the world.
So with that preamble, here are my pool reports from this morning, exactly as they were distributed to other reporters:
Subject: Pool Report 1 – Japan bilat
David Akin, Sun Media
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan held a bilateral meeting that began at 0930 at the Deerhurst Resort near Huntsville.
The pair met in a small room in the main lodge at the resort.
Speaking first in French and then in English, Harper welcomed Kan to Canada and congratulated him on his recent election. Kan became prime minister of Japan on June 8. A female interpreter repeated Harper's remarks in Japanese.
Kan thanked Harper for the invitation and his remarks were translated from Japanese to English.
The two men were seated in black armchairs when we entered. They stood and shook hands and remained standing in the centre of the room. There were no other officials present.
Both wore dark suits with white shirts. Harper wore a red tie; Kan a blue one.
A white vase with red roses was on the table between the two chairs. Two or three potted cedar trees about 8 ft high each flanked each side of the meeting area.
The prime ministers stood in front of flags from each country with the G8 logo behind them.
Harper: “Congratulations prime minister on becoming prime minister. It's a real delight to have you here in Canada.”
Kan (through interpreter): “Thank you very much …(Inaudible) I was looking forward to meeting you today.”
Subject: Pool Report 2 – UK bilat
Pool reporter: David Akin, Sun Media
Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron in the same room that Harper earlier met with Japanese PM Kan. The meeting began ay 1045.
The men were seated when we entered, rose and shook hands before making brief remarks. (Comments below) Harper commented on the recent British budget. Cameron noted it was his first time in Canada and that this morning he went for a swim in the lake. No idea if his swim trunks were boxers or bikini but members of the British pool were betting it was a thong.
For this meeting both men had dark suits and white shirts. Harper in a red tie; Cameron in blue. Please see Pool Report 1 for details about the room setting. One modification: The real shrubbery placed about the room included some cedars, a small spruce and some small – 10-foot – birch and poplar trees.
Harper: Well, prime minister, I'm delighted to …
Cameron: It's my first trip to Canada. Harper: It is? Well, I'm delighted to see you here. I met you for the first time as prime minister in London and I'm delighted to have you here. And I'm delighted to have you here just off a budget where you highlighted the very fiscal consolidation that we're trying to steer the G20 towards. I appreciate your responsible and difficult decisions in that regard.
Cameron: Thank you. I think it needs to be done. I think we've managed to set it out so that people understand why it is necessary. It's good to be here to talk about how those countries with the biggest deficits, as a world, we will address the imbalances that we have. It's good to be here. I even had a swim in the lake this morning.
Harper: Good for you!
Cameron: A good fresh start!
Harper: I don't get any of that free time. I don't know how you guys manage it.
Cameron: It just means you get up very early.
Subject: Pool Report 3 – Italian bilat
David Akin, Sun Media
Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a bilateral meeting with Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The meeting was held in the same room as Harper's earlier bilats.
I am advised that what I earlier described as a spruce in the room may, in fact, be a balsam fir.
Harper welcomed Berlusconi in French, then English. As Harper started to speak, Berlusconi interrupted him and the two had an inaudible conversation. Then Harper continued.
“As you will find here, Silvio, in this part of Canada, there are many, many people with their roots in your country who will be delighted to see you,” said Harper.
Berlusconi made his remarks in French. He noted that next year he will host his 3rd G8 summit. He referred to himself as the elder statesman of the group.
Harper, in French, said, “But you have the most energy.” (“Avec le plus grand energie”)
Both in dark suits; red tie for Harper; blue for Berlusconi.
Subject: Correction to Pool Report 3 – Italian bilat
Pool reporter: David Akin (email@example.com)
A correction to pool report 3, the Italian bilat.
I mistakenly said that Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi would be hosting next year's G8 and that would be the third G8 summit he would host.
Of course, in the heat of the post-photo-op excitement, I should have realized, as you most likely did, that Berlusconi hosted the G8 last year in L'Aquila and that was his third G8 as host. Berlusconi first hosted the G8 in 1994 in Naples and again in 2001 in Genoa.
My apologies for the confusion.
Subject: POOL REPORT 4 – Official arrival and greeting
Pool Reporter: David Akin, Sun Media (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As host of this year's G8 summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially greeted and welcomed each G8 leader to the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ont.
This ceremony took place at the front entrance to the resort on a driveway roundabout with a red carpet underfoot. Four black-clad snipers could be seen on the roof of the building just behind the ceremony location. A military helicopter hovered for several minutes just behind the building just before the ceremony started and a small civilian surveillance plane circled overhead several times.
Harper, smiling, in a dark suit with a red tie, took his spot in front of two large G-8 sign to welcome leaders.
Leaders arrived in reverse order of precedence. Precedence for this event is Heads of State, followed by Heads of Government, followed by the leaders of the European Council and European Commission. Where two leaders hold equal positions, the leader who has served longest in their position has higher precedence.
And so, the arrival order was:
European Commission: Jose Manuel Barroso
European Council: Herman Van Rompuy
Japan: Naoto Kan
United Kingdom: David Cameron
Italy: Silvio Berlusconi
Germany: Dr. Angela Merkel
United States of America: Barack H. Obama
Russia: Dmitry Medvedev
France: Nicolas Sarkozy
Each leader emerged from an entrance to the west of the main entrance, walking singly on the red carpet to greet Harper. Each leader posed for pictures, exchanged a few pleasantries with Harper, and then proceeded back into the resort through the main entrance.
In addition to journalists attending this ceremony, there were about 50 security personnel and event staff watching the ceremony. The arrival of Obama appeared to produce the most excitement to this group, almost all of whom whipped out camera phones and other gadgets to record Obama's arrival.
Following Obama, Medvedev could be heard saying in English to Harper “Thank you for the nice weather!” Indeed, the fog and cloud that greeted us when we arrived at 0700 this morning had given way to some bright white clouds, brilliant sunshine, a pleasant breeze and temperatures in the high 20s.