— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) November 23, 2013
“Friday’s White House ‘Photo of the Day’ seems fairly innocuous at first glance,” US News reports. “President Obama, in the Oval Office, is surrounded by eight photojournalists as he signs a bill into law:”
But that particular photo comes courtesy of the White House just one day after 38 news organizations and journalistic institutions, en masse, penned a letter of protest to Press Secretary Jay Carney, asking that the Obama administration stop simply sending out their own photos and allow more access to photographers and videographers.
Some journalists interpreted Friday’s photo as the White House attempting to sweep the issue under the rug, while others figured it a subliminal “screw you.”
“I think given the fact that this picture of them taking pictures was now pushed out, I almost wonder if this wasn’t just a set up?” said Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, who worked on a draft of the letter. “See, we give everybody access, what’s the problem?” he said the White House was trying to say.
Julie Mason, SiriusXM POTUS press pool host and former White House Correspondents’ Association board member, saw Friday’s photo and suggested it was an equivalent to a middle finger, a snub and an eye roll. “All of that, plus a drop of anxiety,” Mason wrote in an email. “Behold how sensitive the White House is to claims they shut the press out.”
Of course, Mr. Obama is happy to flash more than the equivalent of the middle finger when he’s peeved. But it’s fascinating to watch the White House’s war on the media spread from almost exclusively with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh in 2009 and 2010, to the rest of the news media, now that the MSM is forced, despite itself, to report on the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, if only because of the sheer magnitude of the horror stories.
On Thursday, Ron Fournier, formerly with AP, wrote a National Journal article whose headline alone would have been unthinkable by the MSM during the sunny, cheerful, “We Are Socialists Now” early days of hopenchange. Titled “Obama’s Image Machine: Monopolistic Propaganda Funded by You,” Fournier wrote:
New York Times photographer Doug Mills strode into Jay Carney’s office Oct. 29 with a pile of pictures taken exclusively by President Obama’s official photographer at events the White House press corps was forbidden to cover. “This one,” Mills said, sliding one picture after another off his stack and onto the press secretary’s desk. “This one, too – and this one and this one and … .”
The red-faced photographer, joined by colleagues on the White House Correspondents’ Association board, finished his 10-minute presentation with a flourish that made Carney, a former Moscow correspondent for Time, wince.
“You guys,” Mills said, “are just like Tass.”
Comparing the White House to the Russian news agency is a hyperbole, of course, but less so with each new administration. Obama’s image-makers are taking advantage of new technologies that democratized the media, subverting independent news organizations that hold the president accountable. A generation ago, a few mainstream media organizations held a monopoly on public information about the White House. Today, the White House itself is behaving monopolistic.
The fast-moving trend is hampering reporters and videographers who cover the White House, but Mills’ profession has probably been hardest hit. “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,” reads a letter delivered today to Carney by the WHCA and several member news organizations including The Associated Press and The New York Times.
The letter includes examples of important news events that were not covered by media photographers, and yet pictures were taken by the White House image team and widely distributed via social media. This happens almost daily.
“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,” Fournier adds.