Washington (CNN) –The briefing room spotlight shines brightest on White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, but turn the camera around and focus on the front row and you might just catch a glimpse of history being made.
For the first time, as far as anyone can tell, three African American correspondents occupied front row seats together and peppered Gibbs with questions. It happened last Thursday as the controversy over the Quran burning hit a fever pitch.
"That is amazing," Gibbs said, surprised that in 2010 this milestone had never been reached.
Darlene Superville of the Associated Press sat in the seat of power. Tradition holds that AP get's the first question and signals to Gibbs when it's time to wrap with a simple "thank you Robert."
Wendell Goler, a veteran Fox News White House correspondent, pressed Gibbs on the Quran story, and the White House targeting of House Minority leader John Boehner over tax cuts for the wealthy. Those were similar to questions I had pushed from a different angle earlier, when Gibbs called on me.
"Three blacks sitting on the front row of the White House briefing room is long overdue," said April Ryan of American Urban Radio Network, (AURN) who recalls conversations she had with former President George W. Bush over the small number of minorities in the press covering him.
CBS News' Mark Knoller, the unofficial record keeper of the White House press corps, was intrigued when asked to verify this 'historic event,' but was stumped. He's crunched a lot of numbers, but has not tracked the African American front row traffic.
To be sure, circumstance as much as diversity is behind this development.
Goler, who has covered five different Presidents, got to sit in Fox's newly minted front row seat when Hearst Columnist Helen Thomas was forced out after making controversial remarks about Israel.
But some observers say it's hard to ignore other small signs of progress. For example, on the same day that three African Americans graced the front row of the briefing room, two others, Helene Cooper of the New York Times and Ryan of AURN, also got called on by Gibbs.
Then, the next day another apparent first which was noted by Gibbs. President Obama called on four African Americans during his East Room press conference.
Ryan said more important than just being on the front lines of questioning the President on the day's news, is the fact that she often focuses on topics that "no other news agency would care to formally probe." For example, she's taken the lead in pushing for answers over a delayed government settlement with black farmers. Other networks later picked up on the story.
Much was made when America elected the first African American President, but only a few stories focused on the race of the men and women who cover him.
No one sees "the front row three" or the "press conference four" as a sea change, but Ryan said it's a sign of progress that should not be taken lightly. "It falls on the news agencies to continue the progressive moves to hire all types of minorities to staff their various bureaus."