Staff Ed: White House tests Journalism
The role of the press is to inform the public. Whether a writer or photographer, we are here to seek the truth and report it. Pete Souza, the official White House photographer, reports news through compelling, informative photographs and his close relationship with President Barack Obama and other government officials gives him access to some of the most important moments in recent history.
It is due to this access that fellow photographers and journalists are now criticizing Souza for.
According to the New York Times, Souza’s “privileged access” and the increased distribution of his photos in various media by the White House “is generating tension between him and the news photographers who are assigned to the White House.”
In a letter to Jay Carney, White House press secretary, organizations including the New York Times and the White House Correspondents’ Association argued that other photographers are excluded from such intimate sessions with the president, while photos of the events, taken by Souza are later released. The letter argued that independent journalism is being replaced with visual press releases.
The tension between outside and inside White House photographers has always existed, but is now squeezed by the rise of digital technology, especially in this case.
According to the New York Times, J. David Ake, assistant bureau chief for photos at the Associated Press, said, “The core issue is the White House uses his images and disseminates them to the public, and they become the only historical document of events.”
There is always a rush to report news first, but when the competition is inhibited, there is a major issue.
Though Souza is simply doing his job, the White House is explicitly showing him preference. When this exclusive access is continually denied to other photographers, the freedom of the press is limited.
Journalists have the right to report on the government, and they should receive equal opportunity for coverage. Providing certain reporters a level of access that is restricted to other others fosters a controlled media that clearly violates the press’ constitutional liberties.