In the latest media charge that the White House has reneged on promises to be “transparent,” two of AP's White House staff told a convention in Denver this week that the president's team often bars coverage of Obama events because they are “hypersensitive” about his image.
At the Newspaper Association of America's mediaXchange convention in Denver, AP White House photographer Charles Dharapak said that instead of letting reporters and photographers in at major news events, like the president's recent meeting with the Dalai Lama, it is issuing “visual press releases” on social media.
He suggested that in cutting reporters from events that have historically received coverage, the White House is limiting access to independent news organizations. "Once we lose access, we'll never get it back," he told convention participants.
"We don't fault them for using these methods of social outreach," Dharapak said of the White House in an AP interview after his presentation. "Just don't shut the independent press out,” he told his news service.
The White House press corps has been frustrated by the way the White House limits coverage and have begun to openly complain about being shut out. White House officials, however, said that putting news out through social media gives a wider audience access to the president.
His comments were the buzz in the crowd, eventually hitting Twitter.
“@Dharapak: We don't fault @WhiteHouse for managing President's Image but its no sub for independent journalism,” tweeted Maggie Murphy, editor of Parade magazine.
“@CharlesDharapak: It's important for the public to understand that official White House photos are public relations,” tweeted Amanda Knowles, web and social media manager for the Newspaper Association of America. “@CharlesDharapak: How White House manages their message: Handout photos from closed events become visual press releases,” she added.
Amber Paluch, community engagement editor for the Green Bay Press-Gazette in Wisconsin, tweeted, “Unscripted time with @BarackObama are rare & the chance for reporters to ask questions much rarer."
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.