President Obama Is Getting Camera Shy


The New York Times reports that the press is unhappy with the Obama White House:

A mutiny has erupted among photographers who cover President Obama over what they say is the White House’s increasing practice of excluding them from events involving the president and then releasing its own photos or video.

On Thursday, the White House Correspondents’ Association and 37 news organizations submitted a letter to the press secretary….The letter cited seven recent examples of newsworthy events from which photographers were banned, including an outdoor lunch for Mr. Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and a session in the Oval Office at which Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani human rights campaigner, spoke with Mr. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their daughter Malia.

….White House photographers have historically captured private moments of the president, with his family or conferring with advisers in the Oval Office or the Situation Room. During the debate over the civil war in Syria, Mr. Souza’s images of internal meetings provided a revealing account of the tensions felt by the president and his staff….“The way they exclude us is to say that this is a very private moment,” said Doug Mills, a photographer for The New York Times who has covered the White House since the Reagan administration. “But they’re making private moments very public.”

The story is a little frustrating because it doesn’t provide a good sense of whether photographic access has changed significantly over the years. But the AP’s director of photography, Santiago Lyon, added this on his blog:

While photographers are granted some access to Oval Office meetings and other activities, it has decreased markedly under the Obama administration when compared to previous presidents….In fact, since 2010 we have only been granted access to the President alone in the Oval Office on two occasions, once in 2009 and again in 2010. We have never been granted access to the President at work in the Oval Office accompanied by his staff. Previous administration regularly granted such access.

This is part of a troubling trend, as presidential administrations have all gotten successively more and more single-minded about managing their image. By itself, it’s hard to get too worked up about photographers not being allowed into a few meetings here and there, but this is yet another step in the direction of obsessive White House media management. It’s the wrong direction, and it’s also kind of pointless. Whether he likes hordes of photographers around or not, Obama should know that it’s all part of the job. He should let the photographers back in.

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