Ethics Hero: USA Today

News you can use!

News you can use!

Increasingly, all the Obama White House has in its tool box to limit the damage of fiascos  past, present and future is its ability to manipulate the President’s  public image.  For five years an infuriatingly uncritical and submissive press allowed this administration to avoid the consequences of mistakes, problems and misconduct that would have dominated front pages for months in past years, but some vague signs of backbone have been visible of late, so the White House is cracking down.

From the journalism website of the Poynter Institute:

“A coalition of news organizations, including the Associated Press, ABC News, The Washington Post and Reuters called for better access to the president and the White House today in a letter addressed to White House press secretary Jay Carney.

The letter says, in part:

“Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties. As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government.”

The National Press Photographers Association also put its name to the protest. “Media organizations including NPPA have been keeping track of all the times on the president’s schedule when something has been marked ‘private,’ or when there’s been a news lid issued by the Press Office, only to find a White House photograph from the event show up a short time later on its official Web site,” NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher said. “We have never been granted access to the President at work in the Oval Office accompanied by his staff,” AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon said. “Previous administration regularly granted such access.”

At the National Journal. Ron Fournier was less diplomatic, writing:

“Obama’s image-makers are taking advantage of new technologies that democratized the media, subverting independent news organizations that hold the president accountable. A generation ago, a few mainstream media organizations held a monopoly on public information about the White House. Today, the White House itself is behaving monopolistically. The fast-moving trend is hampering reporters and videographers who cover the White House…“As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government,” reads a letter delivered today to Carney by the WHCA and several member news organizations including The Associated Press and The New York Times. The letter includes examples of important news events that were not covered by media photographers, and yet pictures were taken by the White House image team and widely distributed via social media. This happens almost daily. Unlike media photographers, official White House photographers are paid by taxpayers and report to the president. Their job is to make Obama look good. They are propagandists–in the purest sense of the word.”

Mentioning that President Obama’s pledge upon taking office was to make “transparency” the watchword of his administration has taken on the aura of a cliche from repetition, but still, has any Presidential pledge ever been so cynically violated? It isn’t only health care lies that matter.

In response to the recent clampdown, USA Today is leading the major dailies in refusing to knuckle under to what some journalists are calling “Soviet style” news manipulation. In a memo to the staff, Andrew Scott, USA Today’s Deputy Director of Multimedia, decreed that the paper will no longer use “handout photos originating from the White House Press Office” outside of “extraordinary circumstances,” saying in conclusion,

“The functions of the President at the White House are fundamentally public in nature, and should be documented for the public by independent news organizations, not solely by the White House Press Office.The journalistic community feels so strongly about this that 38 news organizations, including Gannett, have sent a letter of formal protest to the White House.”

Good. Unvarnished truth is not friendly to the President these days, nor has it been for a long time; fortunately for him (and unfortunately for the nation), the varnish was being copiously supplied by the mainstream media. USA Today’s defiance signals that perhaps some of the lapdogs are ready to start practicing ethical and objective journalism again.


Sources: Mediaite 1, 2, Poynter 1,2; National Journal

Graphic: Tara Myers

5 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: USA Today

  1. Agreeing with AMS, but for a different reason.

    As I’ve written here in the past,
    defending liberalism is only the third most prominent bias in the major media.

    Instead, this situation actually goes straight to the heart of Bias #1, because lack of access inhibits their ability to “HEY!!! OVER HERE!!! LOOK AT ME!!!” to sell their products.

    If the White House throws the media a bone over this, they’ll drop it the next day.


  2. Well the “useful idiots” perhaps are starting to wake up. Or are they just pissed off because they cannot always shoot photo ops of the Prez in Hawaii and further his agenda? Time will tell.

  3. They’re not demanding transparency. They’re demanding access to photo opportunities. By doing so they are turning a spotlight on what is wrong with the “news” media today.

    An Edward R. Murrow or a Seymour Hersh would be demanding to speak freely to mid-level officials and to have an end to the war on whistleblowers. They would be right to do so. Today’s reporters have a duty to do so. They are failing.

    The journalism we need is not more pictures inside the Oval Office, and it’s tragic that USA Today thinks that’s what they should demand.

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