Photojournalists Call For Better Access To The White House

Posted on 11/29/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Last week a coalition of 37 news organizations, including the Associated Press, ABC News, The Washington Post and Reuters called for better access to the president and the White House in a letter addressed to White House press secretary Jay Carney.

The letter said, in part:
    “Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties. 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.”
“We have never been granted access to the President at work in the Oval Office accompanied by his staff,” AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon said. “Previous administration regularly granted such access.”

Unlike media photographers, official White House photographers are paid by taxpayers, and report to the president. Their job is to make Obama look good. They are propagandists – in the purest sense of the word.

The letter reminded Carney that Obama promised to run the most transparent administration in history. It argues that the restrictions “raise constitutional concerns” and amount to “arbitrary restraint and unwarranted interference on legitimate news gathering activities.”

USA Today Deputy Director of Multimedia Andrew P. Scott said the news organization will not use “handout photos originating from the White House Press Office, except in very extraordinary circumstances.” Such circumstances would have to involve “legitimate national security restrictions” as well as “very high news value,” Scott writes.
The New York Times doesn’t have an official, written policy regarding White House photo handout its spokesperson Eileen Murphy told the Poynter Institute in an emal but, “it is widely understood that we prefer not to use handouts except in certain circumstances.” Her email continues:
    ** Photos of historical importance. an example being the photo from the situation room on the night of the Bin Laden killing that featured the various secretaries (Clinton, Gates). We’ve also most certainly used historical White House photos in Presidential and related obits.

    ** The second circumstance would be when a photo itself is a referenced part of a story. For instance, the President appeared on all the Sunday morning talk shows (we might have a shot of each show, and we obviously couldn’t be there ourselves) or another example would be the relatively recent shot of the President’s team that featured all men, but just Valerie Jarrett’s legs. we would use that photo because it was referenced in the story.

    ** And the last instance would be when a photo was critical to the understanding of a story and we couldn’t possibly be there ourselves because of security concerns.,
The Los Angeles Times “only runs White House handouts in exceptional situations,” spokesperson Nancy Sullivan told Poynter in an email.

McClatchy doesn’t use handout photos “unless it is of areas where there is no access to the press, like the situation room,” Washington bureau chief James Asher told Poynter. “And our sister wire service, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, does not distribute them.”

Executive Editor Karen Peterson of the (Tacoma, Wash.) News Tribune wrote in a piece published Sunday. “From now on, we won’t publish White House handout photos of events that should have been open to news photographers, even if that means going without a photo. As the protest letter said, closing the door to the press gets in the way of “the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing.”

The National Press Photographers Association also put its name to the protest. “Media organizations including NPPA have been keeping track of all the times on the president’s schedule when something has been marked ‘private,’ or when there’s been a news lid issued by the Press Office, only to find a White House photograph from the event show up a short time later on its official Web site,” said NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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