White House Blames Internet for Lack of Media Access, and the Press Calls Shenanigans

Commotion erupts as the media debates access issues with press secretary Jay Carney.

This is a photo the press was not allowed to take.
National Journal
Brian Resnick
Dec. 12, 2013, 10:16 a.m.

The Obama White House has be­come no­tori­ous for its re­stric­tions on me­dia ac­cess. Few press pho­to­graph­ers get to pho­to­graph even the most banal mo­ments of the pres­id­ency. Per­haps one reas­on why the photo of Obama tak­ing a “selfie” at Nel­son Man­dela’s me­mori­al ser­vice got so much at­ten­tion is be­cause it’s rare to see a photo of him away from the West Wing not com­posed and se­lec­ted by his White House pho­to­graph­ers.

At Thursday’s daily press brief­ing with White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney, some mem­bers of the press corp got verbally up in arms over the is­sue.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4626) }}

“A lot of this had to do with the fun­da­ment­al trans­form­a­tions in the me­dia, of which we and oth­er in­sti­tu­tions are par­ti­cipants,” Car­ney told re­port­ers. “But we did not cre­ate the In­ter­net.”

Here’s one way to in­ter­pret that: In the In­ter­net age, the White House can (and has full right to) sidestep the tra­di­tion­al me­dia in provid­ing im­ages dir­ectly to the people, us­ing so­cial me­dia in­stead. Which is true, but not the point the journ­al­ists were ar­guing.

April Ry­an, a cor­res­pond­ent for Amer­ic­an Urb­an Ra­dio Net­works, summed up the press sen­ti­ment well. “The In­ter­net had noth­ing to do with Air Force One,” she said, re­fer­ring to the pres­id­ent’s re­cent trip to Nel­son Man­dela’s me­mori­al. “When you had a large group of re­port­ers in the pool, pho­to­graph­ers there as well, who could have come up with Pete Souza, to the front of Air Force One, and taken a couple of pic­tures…. But we were not al­lowed.”

“You don’t have to sub­scribe to that wire ser­vice to see that pho­to­graph,” Car­ney said of the pho­to­graphs taken of the pres­id­ent. 

Which goes to show that the me­dia and Car­ney are ar­guing two dif­fer­ent points. Car­ney says the in­de­pend­ent pub­lic­a­tions aren’t needed, be­cause the White House can pub­lish the pho­tos. The me­dia say the White House isn’t op­er­at­ing with an ob­ject­ive fil­ter. As Ry­an told Car­ney, the sound of press cam­er­as re­mind those in power they are be­ing watched. And the act of ob­serving changes that which is be­ing ob­served.

These are the pho­tos the White House took. And they told a cer­tain story of pres­id­en­tial (Bush, Obama) bond­ing. Yes, that’s a re­l­at­ively trivi­al story. But what would have it looked like as pho­to­graphed through the lens of the in­de­pend­ent me­dia?

We’ll nev­er know.

What We're Following See More »
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
1 days ago

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
23 hours ago

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
18 hours ago

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
5 hours ago

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.