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SPJ to White House: Typical Spin and Non-response

"Typical spin and response through non-response," was how Society of Professional Journalists President David Cuillier branded the White House's response to journalist concerns about the Obama Administration's public information officers (PIOs) and their control of that information.

A total of 48 groups wrote the President last month urging changes to policies that required journalists to go through government PIO's for information, accusing the White House of politically driven suppression of news. 

There has been an ongoing tension between broadcast, print and online journalists and the Obama administration, with complaints that the Administration has limited access to events, while providing its own "coverage" through official channels.

In a White House response to SPJ dated Aug. 11 new press secretary Josh Earnest said the White House had made progress in expanding access to the President, protecting whistleblowers, simplifying government Web sites, streamlining FOIA requests and more.

"The President's commitment to the transparency and the crucial role of the independent press is unwavering," he said, while suggesting there would always be a "healthy, natural tension" between the heightened access the journalists wanted and what they got.

SPJ was not seeing it that way. While Cuillier said he was pleased that Earnest said in the letter the White House would continue to work toward improved transparency, the letter fell short of answering the journalist’s questions and concerns.

"While we applaud efforts to people's access to their government through websites and FOIA," said Cuillier, "nowhere does the White House address specific concerns about excessive message management and preventing journalists from getting information on behalf of citizens."

"I'm hopeful the administration is sincere in its promise to increase openness and rectify the problems," Cuillier said. "But we want action. We are tired of words and evasion."