White House should loosen photographer restrictions

When 38 major independent news organizations find it necessary to protest a White House policy in unison, the president has a problem. And so it is for the Obama administration.

With increasing frequency, the White House is shutting out independent news photographers from recording key presidential events. While the press is excluded, White House photographers roam the meetings, distributing images on blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

It’s no surprise the government shots are flattering. And there is no certainty the pictures are accurate depictions of the mood of meetings.

For that reason, the president and his administration must put an end to excessive reliance on closed meetings. National security matters may legitimately dictate privacy, but many other gatherings recently closed were public business and should have been available to independent press photographers.

Obama entered office promising new transparency. This shift to more closed-door activities does not comport with that promise and threatens to create an Obama legacy of increasing isolation. A president taking a dive in public polling does himself, and the nation, no favors by stonewalling the press on such basic matters as photographer access.

The protest letter signed by The White House Correspondents’ Association, the Associated Press, CNN, Fox, McClatchy (owner of The Star) and many other leading journalism groups arrived before Thanksgiving. It’s past time for the administration to open up and renew its commitment to public accountability.

There is a place for paid White House photographers. But independent photographers work to record history from all angles, not just those favored by the White House.

-Kansas City Star

Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm