Friday, April 29, 2011

Change - Too Fantastic to Be True

I have never been convinced by Obama's vaguely defined, hallucinating and fantastic change mantra during his campaign, therefore, was spared of the rude shock of his two and a quarter year's unsatisfactory presidency, which if has not awakened his eager followers from their collective rose-hued dreams, this new blow reported by Associated Press below, hopefully, would open their eyes, and push them to demand what they want to see.
White House, newspaper clash over protest video

The White House says a San Francisco Chronicle reporter broke the rules when she put down her pen and picked up a video camera to film a protest. The newspaper says the Obama administration needs to join the 21st century.

The conflict hit the newspaper's front page Friday with a story about coverage of the protest during President Barack Obama's speech last week at a private fundraiser.

Reporter Carla Marinucci had White House permission to cover the fundraiser as a so-called "pool" reporter, meaning she could attend as long as she shared her notes with the White House to distribute to other reporters.

Marinucci was covering the event when about a half-dozen protesters who paid a combined $76,000 to attend the breakfast broke into a song chastising Obama for the government's treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst suspected of illegally passing government secrets to the WikiLeaks website.

"We paid our dues, where's our change?" the protesters sang.

Although a print reporter, Marinucci is seldom seen without a small video recorder while covering politicians. She captured video of the protest, which was posted with her written story in the online edition of the Chronicle and on its politics blog.

White House officials say that breached the terms of her access, which stated Marinucci was to provide a print-only report.

Editor Ward Bushee said in the Chronicle's story Friday that the paper acted within its rights to cover the newsworthy incident.

He also said White House officials in off-the-record conversations Thursday threatened to bar Marinucci from pool coverage of future presidential appearances. He added that the officials, whom Bushee did not name, threatened to freeze out Chronicle and other Hearst Newspaper chain reporters if they reported on the threat against Marinucci.

"We expect our reporters to use the reporting tools they have to cover the news, and Carla did," Bushee said in the Chronicle story. The White House rule against print reporters shooting and posting video is "objectionable and just is not in sync with how reporters are doing their jobs these days." he said.

After Josh Earnest, another White House spokesman, told the Politico website that officials had not made such threats, Carney said in a statement Friday that "no reporters have been banned from covering future presidential events."

The protesters' own footage ended up appearing on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

The fundraiser came a day after Obama appeared at the Palo Alto headquarters of Facebook, praising the social media giant for enabling a more open, two-way conversation between citizens and politicians. The president said he was interested in holding the event, billed as a social media town hall, because young people especially were now getting their information through a range of different media.

San Francisco Chronicle's Editorials summarized it eloquently and I'm going to quote it in its entirety:
Administration exercises its control freak streak

The White House that fancies itself as the most transparent in history is not without its control-freak instincts when it comes to media access.

It seems that Team Obama was none too pleased that veteran Chronicle political reporter Carla Marinucci posted a 40-second video of a group of supporters-turned-protesters serenading the president a cappella - "We paid our dues ... where's our change" - at a recent fundraising breakfast at San Francisco's St. Regis Hotel. The protesters' objection: the treatment of Wikileaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning.

The White House threatened that Marinucci would no longer be allowed to serve as a pool reporter during future Obama swings west. Marinucci's apparent offense was shooting video during an event that was closed to broadcast journalism.

Last we checked, this was the 21st century, and Obama was the politician with the comfortable mastery of social networking - at least when it serves his purposes, as in having a cozy town hall at Facebook or soliciting donations for what is expected to be a $1 billion re-election campaign.

The White House appeared to be backing off from its banishment of Marinucci late Thursday. Still, the fact that television and radio reporters are not allowed into most fund-raising events is unacceptable. We also find ourselves disturbed that some print journalists would go along with the administration's attempt to pull an audio and video curtain at fund-raising events.

It seems the White House was reserving amateur broadcast rights for the 200 guests who paid between $5,000 and $38,500 to help re-elect a president who so reveres semi-transparency. Perhaps Obama trusted that his admission-paying admirers would not upload any off-message clips recorded on their cell-phone cameras. Unfortunately for the White House, it didn't work in this case. The protesters who paid $76,000 for their breakfast table also shot video - and it ended up on Jon Stewart's Daily Show.

The administration's overreaction to the protest-song video seems way out of scale with its embarrassment factor. It's hardly on par with candidate Obama's April 2008 remarks about bitter small town folks who cling to "guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them" that was captured by a blogger.

News happens at fund-raisers. Journalists should be there, with the modern tools of the trade, free to make their own judgments about what is newsworthy.

An administration truly dedicated to transparency would not require journalists to be "in the tank" as a condition of being in the pool.

No comments:

Post a Comment