White House journalists are complaining that the Obama Administration limits on photos and videos of some events is an effort to supplant independent journalists with press releases.
The major network news operations, cable and broadcast, are part of a group of over three dozen news operations (everyone fromThe Washington Post and NYT to AP and Reuters) that have written to protest limits on their ability to videotape or photograph the President.
The letter, addressed to Press Secretary Jay Carney, says they hope it will be the first step in lifting the restrictions. They say they are not bucking limits on access to the private residence or national security restrictions but on fundamentally public duties.
They say the White House has been deeming some activities as "private" as a way to limit access to certain events, then releasing its own picture of the event on social media.
Among the events they site are the President's meeting with members of the Hispanic Caucus, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (the White House tweeted its own photo), and a meeting with African American Faith Leaders.
"The restrictions imposed by the White House on photographers covering these events, followed by the routine release by the White House of photographs made by government employees of these same events, is an arbitrary restraint and unwarranted interference on legitimate newsgathering activities. You are, in effect, replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases."
They say the exclusions are a major break with past precedent, and a very troubling one with First Amendment implications.
"The organizations and individuals signing this letter strongly believe that imposing limits on press access your office has done, represents a troubling precedent with a direct and adverse impact on the public's ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing," they wrote.
Signing on to the letter were:
American Society of News Editors
American Society of Media Photographers
Associated Press Media Editors
Associated Press Photo Managers
Association of Alternative Newsmedia
Association of Opinion Journalists
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Fox News Channel
Gannett Co., Inc.
Lee Enterprises, Incorporated
The McClatchy Company
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
National Press Club
National Press Photographers Association
New England First Amendment Coalition
News Media Coalition
Newspaper Association of America
The New York Times Company
Online News Association
Professional Photographers of America
Radio Television Digital News Association
Regional Reporters Association
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of Professional Journalists
The Washington Post
White House Correspondents' Association
White House News Photographers Association
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.