February 24th, 2014

White House Shuts Out Photographers Again. So Now What?

No photographers allowed: White House released this photo of President Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama on February 21.

The White House released this photo of President Obama and the Dalai Lama on Feb. 21, after barring press photographers from the meeting.

Now that it is evident that the White House is deaf to complaints from photographers and their employers about being shut out of some of President Obama’s official meetings, the question is, What can the media do about it?

On Friday, the White House  closed a meeting between the President and the Dalai Lama, and then angered photographers, their employers, and photo trade groups by by releasing an official photo on Twitter by White House photographer Pete Souza.

Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) refused to distribute the official photo, according to a report by the National Press Photographers Association.

The White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) issued a statement urging other news organizations not to publish the photo, describing it as “a visual press release of a news worthy event.”

WHNPA also said in their statement, “We are disappointed the White House has reverted to their old strategy of announcing a closed press event and then later releasing their own photo.”

Last November, more than three dozen news organizations signed a joint letter protesting limits on photographers’ access to some of Obama’s official meetings.

A few weeks later, The New York Times published an op-ed piece by AP director of photography Santiago Lyon, who called the White House handout photos “propaganda.”

Around the same time, journalists confronted White House press secretary Jay Carney at a White House press briefing about the issue. Carney told the journalists in so many words that The White House no longer needs photographers like it once did, because it can distribute its own pictures directly to the public on the internet.

“You don’t have to buy that newspaper or subscribe to that wire service to see that photograph,” Carney said at the time.

Nevertheless, he pledged “to work with the press and with the photographers to try to address some of their concerns.” About a week later, on December 17, he met with representatives of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the WHNPA, and other media organizations.

Afterwards, NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher said in a report published by NPPA, “We remain cautiously optimistic that the White House will follow through on its earlier commitment to transparency.”

That was then. On Friday, after photographers were shut out of Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, White House News Photographers Association president Ron Sachs said in another NPPA report, “I think the White House grand strategy is to talk us to death and do nothing.”

Osterreicher tells PDN, “We (media groups) should be having a meeting soon” to discuss what to do next.

Undoubtedly they’ll be looking for new angles of diplomacy or attack (or both) to regain the access that White House press corps photographers once enjoyed. In the meantime, we ask PDN readers: What would you advise media organizations and photographers covering the White House to do now?

Related:

Media Protests White House Limits on Photographers
White House Press Secretary to Photographers: We Respect You, But We Don’t Need You
AP Photo Chief Appeals to Public About White House Access. Will It Help?

February 10th, 2014

Freelancer Astrid Riecken Wins “Eyes of History” Photographer of the Year Honors

Astrid Riecken has won Photographer of the Year honors at the 2014 Eyes of History competition, the White House News Photographers Association announced yesterday. The Washington, DC-based freelancer also won first-place prizes in the Feature and Portfolio categories.

Win McNamee of Getty Images won Political Photo of the Year for an image of President Barack Obama speaking at a White House briefing room about the Trayvon Martin case. McNamee also won first place in the Presidential category.

In other still photo categories, Melina Mara won first place prizes for both Picture Story Politics and Political Portfolio. Bonnie Jo Mount won first place for Picture Story Feature. Mara and Mount are both Washington Post staff photographers.

Jabin Botsford of Western Kentucky University won Student Photographer of the Year honors.

Best of Show for multimedia entries went to Ken Geiger of National Geographic for the iPad version of his story called The Last Chase, about Tim Samaras, a well-known storm chaser who was killed during a tornado in May 2013. Geiger also swept first, second, and third prizes in the Non-Linear Storytelling category.

In the Linear Storytelling category, Jim Lo Scalzo won first place for a multimedia story about Iowa’s county fairs that he produced for European Press Photo Agency.

A complete list of categories and winners is available at the White House News Photographers Association web site.

Winners of the competition in all categories will be honored at the WHNPA’s annual black tie gala, scheduled for May 10, 2014, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington.