Media Worried Obama Rules Them With Iron Fist


By: Warner Todd Huston

On January 22 the Associated Press posted an interesting little tidbit of news about how Team Obama is treating the press. Apparently, the Obama White House is trying to force news agencies to use Obama’s own, special, ostensibly “official” photographer’s photos taken at Obama press conferences instead of allowing news agencies to have their own photogs present to record the event. As a result of this attempt by Obama to control his image, the AP and Reuters are a bit miffed that Obama is trying to control the press with such an iron fisted move like this.

All I have to ask is: NOW they get worried that Obama is not too dedicated to freedom of the press? After Obama is fairly elected, NOW the Old Media is beginning to question The One on his treatment of them?

News organizations that cover the White House sparred with the Obama administration on Thursday over access issues for photographers and rules for briefings.

Representatives from Obama’s press office held a conference call with photo editors, who are concerned that the administration prefers distributing photos taken by a White House photographer in cases where photojournalists have been permitted access in the past. It was unclear whether the two sides had reached any accommodation.

Obama did not allow still photographers or video cameras into his re-do of the oath on Wednesday, either. This has also caused the press corps to belatedly raise its collective eyebrow. Reuters and the AP have refused to use the “official” photos of conferences issued by Obama’s press office.

This same AP story also reports that Team Obama has refused permission for news agencies to use the actual names of administration officials issuing info on “background” even though every president before Obama has allowed the citation of administration official’s names.

The Associated Press also questioned on Thursday why reporters were not allowed to use the names of administration officials giving a background briefing on issues regarding the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

Background briefings are hardly new in Washington, and were frequently conducted during the Bush and Clinton administrations. But the AP wanted to establish early with the administration that it’s important to get information on the record as often as possible, said Michael Oreskes, managing editor for U.S. news.

“Information is a lot more valuable to the public if you know where it’s coming from,” Oreskes said. “So we try very hard in all source situations to identify sources as fully as we can.”

Naturally, Obama’s office stonewalled the concerns.

This is in keeping with the relatively few times the press has bothered to report on the aloof or even offhanded way they’ve been treated by Obama throughout the campaign and since his election.

We’ll recall that Obama was continually shut down a reporter’s legitimate questions about what was going on between Obama and troubled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Jest yesterday he got testy with the press during his surprise visit to the press room of the White House. Then there is the story covered here where Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin reported that Obama has a special list of reporters upon whom he’ll call during press conferences. Marin reported that the reporters not on the special list have realized they shouldn’t even bother to raise their hands. And several reporters mentioned that Obama never mixed much with them on the campaign trail with the result that reporters never got to know the candidate at all.

It all adds up to a Barack Obama that does not like the media yet that same media has tried to cover this up with starry-eyed adulation and thrills down their legs for several years, now.

The curious thing is that the Old Media isn’t all up in arms at how Barack Obama dismisses their freedom to cover his press conferences and his aloofness from them? Where are the Chris Mathews of the world gravely warning that this ill treatment of the press is a bad omen? Where are the Dowds or even the David Brookes warning at a president that tries so desperately to control the press? And is there much doubt that if a Republican president had tried to so strictly control the press like Obama has thus far that they would be screaming bloody murder?

I’d say those are good questions, wouldn’t you?

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