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White House “Photo of the Day” upsets political journalists

(Photo: Pete Souza/White House)
(Photo: Pete Souza/White House)

Journalists are upset over a White House “Photo of the Day” they claim was released as crass response to a complaint made by dozens of news organizations regarding access to certain presidential events.

On Thursday, the White House Correspondents Association delivered a letter to the White House charging the White House with restricting press access at presidential events “of a fundamentally public nature.” Among the events noted:

– President Obama’s July 30th meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators

– President Obama’s September 2nd meeting with Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham

– Pakistani human rights leader Malala Yousufzai’s White House visit, where she met with President Obama and members of the First Family

In each case, the White House provided “readouts” and official photos in lieu of allowing credentialed White House reporters and photographers to cover the event, the letter says.

“You are, in effect, replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases,” the letter read.

One day later, the White House released an image of President Obama shadowed by more than a half-dozen photographers as he signed two bills into law while seated in the Oval Office. The photo, taken by White House photographer Pete Souza, was selected as the White House’s “Photo of the Day.”

Some saw this as a “not-so-subtle” response to the letter delivered a day before.

“Behold how sensitive the White House is to claims they shut the press out,” SiriusXM POTUS reporter Julie Mason said.

Political blogger Michael Shaw wrote that the photo was meant “to paint an inelegant picture of photojournalists…shooting the President signing some no name bills with an aide in the background, his arms crossed tightly over his chest and his fist propping up his chin, looking like he can’t wait to get these folks out of there.”

“People in high places should always be mindful how much they are saying, or not saying, with a picture,” Shaw wrote, saying if the White House wanted to send a good-will gesture, they would have offered a more intimate photo opportunity, “one of the hundreds, maybe thousands of scenes only Pete Souza has been privy to for six years.”

More than 40 news organizations signed the letter protesting access at the White House. Among those news organizations: Every major network television news outlet, all three big financial wires (Bloomberg, Reuters, Dow Jones), both news photography wires (Associated Press and Getty), major newspaper owners (Gannett, Tribune, The New York Times Company) and several media special interest groups.

Two groups — the Associated Press Media Editors and the American Society of News Editors — have called on news organizations to stop using White House photography altogether, calling them a form of “propaganda.”

POLITICO: Media complain about lack of access to Obama events
The Hill: Groups call on journalists to stop using White House photos
US News: White House “Photo of the Day” scorned by journalists

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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