Karen Peterson: Sorry, Mr. President, but official pictures won’t do

EXECUTIVE EDITORNovember 24, 2013 

A photojournalist’s job is to document the news the way it really looks, not the way somebody wants it to look. Even when that somebody is the president.

During his presidency, Barack Obama has time and again closed the door to photojournalists trying to take pictures of him performing official duties. Instead, he’s had his own photographer take the pictures, which the White House distributes to the media. You can bet only flattering photos make it through.

That’s a break from the practice of previous administrations, which allowed greater access. It’s concerning to the nation’s largest press organizations and concerning to us at The News Tribune.

Last week, the American Society of News Editors and 37 other organizations signed a letter delivered to Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, protesting the lack of access. The letter listed seven news events handled this way from July 2013 to October 2013, including the president’s meetings with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The administration declares these news events private, but then posts the “official” pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and hands them out for use by the media. Given no alternative, many of us have published them.

The TNT has run 10 photos taken by White House photographer Pete Souza since Obama took office. Two were taken in 2009 of the Obamas’ new puppy, Bo, but the others were of news events.

From now on, we won’t publish White House handout photos of events that should have been open to news photographers, even if that means going without a photo. As the protest letter said, closing the door to the press gets in the way of “the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing.”

THANKSGIVING PREPARATIONS

Most of us are in the midst of assembling ingredients for our big Thanksgiving dinners. In the TNT packaging department, we’re busy assembling all the advertising fliers for your Thanksgiving Day paper.

On any given Sunday, we insert 30-some fliers into your paper; some go to only a portion of our coverage area. On Wednesday night, we’ll insert 47 fliers, many of them double the average number of pages; each flier will go to all of our households.

Plus, we expect to distribute 42,000 more papers than on a normal Thursday. And because we print The Olympian and three weekly papers, as well, we’re also organizing their fliers. That’s a lot of paper to get in the right place by Thursday morning.

Truckloads of Thanksgiving fliers began arriving the first of November. By last weekend, hundreds of pallets filled our packaging center and overflowed into the basement where we also stack rolls of newsprint. Forklifts zoomed around organizing the fliers by day-of-delivery and delivery area.

Two packaging machines, each with 24 hoppers, build the advertising bundles for the paper. Staffers, including Tam Ly, above, feed each hopper with ad fliers. Normally, we run two packaging shifts to build the TNT bundles and two shifts to build The Olympian bundles. In the past week, we’ve run 10 additional shifts for the Thanksgiving push. (Check out the video attached.)

By today, we’ve trucked most of the ad bundles to our distribution centers where they’re on standby for carriers Thursday morning.

We are thankful for the TNT packagers and carriers working hard this week to bring you a Thanksgiving paper that will weigh in at about four pounds.

And we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434
karen.peterson@thenewstribune.com

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