Obama administration: ‘No photos, please’

A long-simmering feud is boiling again between the news media and the Obama administration, which has emerged as a closed administration.

Several news organizations sent a letter to the White House today protesting that with increasing frequency, the White House is refusing to let photographers take pictures of President Obama performing official duties.

Instead, it hands out pictures taken from White House photographers, like this Oct. 11 meeting with Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yousafzai.

(White House)

“As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government,” the letter states.

“We aren’t asking to make pictures of the president putting on his socks in the private quarters every morning,” Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor and senior vice president, said. “We are asking simply to be allowed back into the room when he signs legislation, shakes hands with other leaders, and otherwise discharges his public duties.”

“What we have actually done is use a range of new technology to provide people greater access to the president,” a White House spokesman said. “To the American public, it’s a clear win.”

“”You guys are just like Tass,” New York Times photographer reportedly told White House press secretary Jay Carney, referring to the old Soviet Union’s state-sponsored information organ.

Writing in the National Journal, Ron Fournier said this White House-distributed photo of the president sitting in the Rosa Parks bus, is no different than “beefcake photos of Vladimir Putin.”

Pete Souza/White House

“Journalists understand that the president’s family and national security events must be off-limits at times,” Fournier writes. “Journalists also don’t object to the White House using social media; those are platforms as legitimate as televisions and print. The problem is that the Obama White House is simultaneously restricting access of independent media while flooding the public with state-run media.

“Again, this is propaganda – utterly lacking a skeptical eye. The irony is that Obama is using technology that democratized and flattened the media to centralize and strengthen the powers an institution, The Presidency.”

  • MrE85

    Presidents trying to control the media coverage is nothing new, but I think the Obama White House is feeling a bit under siege of late. That said, the shutterbugs cries of tyranny and oppression are a little overwrought.

  • I love seeing all of the photos taken by the White house photographer Pete Souza. They are uploaded to Flickr and there are like a zillion of them. I don’t remember seeing nearly as many photos of our last president.

  • theoacme

    If the media cannot independently cover the President of the United States, then I am sorry to say, Obama is so untrustworthy, he should be impeached, convicted, and removed from office forthwith – preferably before Christmas of this year.

    However, the next Republican president had better not do what Obama is doing now, and if s/he does, the Republicans in the House had better impeach him/her, and the Republicans in the Senate had better convict him/her, with as much hatred and rancor as they are showing toward President Obama now, and as quickly as they want to get rid of Obama now.

    • DavidG

      which “high crime and misdemeanor” does “not posing for the press corps” fall under again?

  • John O.

    I don’t condone what they are doing with photographers either, but it does not sound like limitations are being put on the reporters themselves. Not every story about the President includes a photograph, and there have been many cases of Pete Souza’s photos finding their way into print and websites of those news organizations. If the approach from Carney is essentially “use Pete’s pictures or don’t use any,” I’d be tempted to take the second option if I’m the editor.

    I wonder how Ron Ziegler would have fared if the Nixon White House had to deal with the internet, social media, and/or 24/7 cable news outlets back in the day?

    • Reporters ARE being barred from many official events. They have this nasty habit of asking, you know, questions that depart from the carefully scripted portrayal of the person they’re covering. It’s like covering royalty now.

      • John O.

        Understood, and I won’t argue your point one iota. However, the issue presented in the letter has to do with photography and/or videography of official events.

        • I guess it depends on whether you’re comfortable with the idea of history being “written” by the politician or the de facto historians w.r.t. imagery.

          We know that politicians are very good at creating fabrications in imaging by removing the context that needs to be removed. I think that’s the concern.

          As for gang bang photo ops when everyone is taking the same shot, I don’t think we lose anything. For outside on-duty presidential activities, I think we do.

          I’ll give George Bush credit. He didn’t keep the press away from this: