Last week, Breitbart Editor John Nolte described how 38 news agencies wrote a formal letter of complaint over the Obama Administration’s continued exclusive use of an “official White House photographer” for capturing images of the President that have traditionally been open to pool photographers:
This week, 38 members of the mainstream media filed an official complaint with Press Secretary Jay Carney over the fact that the White House has repeatedly snubbed them when it comes to photos. Rather than rely on photojournalists, the Obama administration likes to release its own photos of President Obama in action. The unofficial White House response to this complaint was what one member of the media called the “middle finger.”
Poynter reports that after receiving that “middle finger” from the White House, USA Today has announced they will not use “official” photographs of the president in future stories:
In a memo to staff Sunday, USA Today Deputy Director of Multimedia Andrew P. Scott said the news organization will not use “handout photos originating from the White House Press Office, except in very extraordinary circumstances.” Such circumstances would have to involve “legitimate national security restrictions” as well as “very high news value,” Scott writes. The policy “simply codifies our existing practices on how we treat WH images,” Scott tells Poynter in an email.
Mediate reports The News Tribune of Tacoma is following suit:
The TNT has run 10 photos taken by White House photographer Pete Souza since Obama took office. Two were taken in 2009 of the Obamas’ new puppy, Bo, but the others were of news events.
From now on, we won’t publish White House handout photos of events that should have been open to news photographers, even if that means going without a photo. As the protest letter said, closing the door to the press gets in the way of “the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing.”
Here is Executive Editor Andrew Scott’s full memo to USA Today staff memorializing the new policy:
We do not publish, either in print or online, handout photos originating from the White House Press Office, except in very extraordinary circumstances. In those very rare instances where a handout image from the White House image has been made under legitimate national security restrictions and is also of very high news value, the use needs to be approved in advance by consulting with Dave Callaway, David Colton, Owen Ullmann, Susan Weiss, Dave Teeuwen, Patty Michalski or me prior to publication.
The functions of the President at the White House are fundamentally public in nature, and should be documented for the public by independent news organizations, not solely by the White House Press Office.
The journalistic community feels so strongly about this that 38 news organizations, including Gannett, have sent a letter of formal protest to the White House.