The President will no longer stage speech reenactments for still photographers, the White House decided today.
People were not pleased to hear that the photos of President Obama announcing Osama bin Laden's death were actually taken after his original speech. The reenactment, a long-held White House tradition aimed at avoiding distracting the speaking president with noisy cameras, caused an unexpected furor last week when the Poynter Institute discovered that, despite AP and other news organizations printing captions to the photos that clarify they were taken after the announcement, 30 out of 50 front pages "used an AP, Reuters or Getty photo, credited appropriately, with a caption that implied or strongly suggested it was an image of the live address." Poynter's Al Tompkins, who conducted this research, argued last week that "It is time for this kind of re-enactment to end. The White House should value truth and authenticity."
His words, apparently, have been heeded by the White House, despite acknowledgements from professional photographers that this practice is necessary. After receiving several comments on his original blog post about covering the announcement, from readers confused about the staged photos, Reuters Photographer Jason Reed clarified:
Every nationally-televised Presidential statement of historical significance and of this nature, going back decades, is made specifically for television. The concept of accommodating still photographers immediately after these events is a courtesy extended to us by each administration so that a still record of the event is made by the independent press that work at the White House....The fact that still photographers even get this picture is a result of negotiations made between the press and each successive presidential staff, for the benefit of the printed press whose needs we try to meet every day.