The filtered White House

December 18, 2013
The Obama administration promised transparency from the beginning. But journalists argue it's been one of the least transparent in recent memory. Former White House photographer and Los Angeles Times photojournalist Paul Morse weighs in on the debate. (Nicki Demarco/The Washington Post)

On Tuesday’s On Background, Nia-Malika Henderson spoke with former White House photographer Paul Morse about the recent backlash from the press toward the current administration over its policies restricting press access to President Obama. Instead of allowing members of the press to attend Obama’s events, the White House frequently posts pictures of the president on its social media accounts. “We’re not operating any differently than other White House offices have operated, except that the Internet exists,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a recent press briefing. Morse, who worked in the George W. Bush White House, said that may be partially true, but he suggested the emergence of social media platforms combined with the economic pressures media are facing is a handy excuse for the White House to clamp down. “The Internet is there, but it’s also the economics of the news industry that’s put a lot of pressure on photographers to try and compete,” Morse said. And the administration may have “seen that as an opportunity to step in.”

The White House press corps doesn’t seem especially grateful for the cost-saving measures: Frustration over lack of access to President Obama erupted last month in a slew of editorials and blog posts, including this one by National Journal’s Ron Fournier showing side-by-side images of White House images and those taken by photojournalists. They were accompanied by a formal letter from media outlets (including The Washington Post) and trade organizations protesting restrictions on photojournalists. How much access should the press have to the president? Tell us in the comments or tweet us using #Postback.

Natalie Jennings is a Web producer for PostTV.
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