I’d known about Twitter for quite some time, but didn’t join until Oct. 2008 when my good friend Stephen finally roped me into it. I’ve since been following — and am followed by — a number of Tweeple in the journalism industry. I occasionally follow the weekly Monday #journchat discussions, but today was the first day I tweeted heavily with others about the field.
It all started when I read and tweeted Politico’s article about the Obama administration and its treatment of the press corps. On the first page of the article, you can find these two grafs:
“It is ironic, the same day that the president is talking about transparency, we were not let in,” CNN’s Ed Henry said on the air Wednesday night after news of the second swearing-in broke.
Henry’s main gripe was that television reporters weren’t permitted to cover a historic moment, when Obama once again raised his right hand and took the oath before Justice John Roberts. The only images came from White House photographer Pete Souza.
As a photojournalism student, I understand but dislike media restrictions. During the 2008 campaign season, I covered political rallies at which Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Sarah Palin, John Edwards and Mitt Romney were present. As the election season came down to the wire and larger venues were used to accommodate larger crowds, the media restrictions became pretty tight.
In January and February (Super Tuesday!), fellow student photographers and I had easy access and the freedom to roam about two Hillary Clinton rallies, a Barack Obama rally, a John Edwards rally, a John McCain rally and a Mitt Romney rally — all in the St. Louis area. At one Clinton rally, I was so close that I was right up against the railing blocking the general public from the main stage, and had the opportunity to shake Bill Clinton’s hand afterward. (I didn’t. I probably should have.)
In the fall, access became highly restricted, and understandably so. Obama held a rally at MU the week before the election, and only national/traveling press photographers were allowed into the “pit” area (the section cordoned off right in front of the stage — 10 feet away from the speaker, and obviously the best place from which to take photos).
Palin held a rally on the State Capitol building steps in Jefferson City the day before the election — and, once again, only national/traveling press photographers were allowed into the pit. (Somehow, Secret Service detail allowed me into the pit for her entrance, Hank Williams Jr.’s performances and the first 10 minutes of her speech — but that access was definitely an unexpected surprise.)
I certainly understand why such access was restricted to the national/traveling press. They’re the ones with the big audience, whose photos will be splashed across national publications and highly trafficked news Web sites. But at the same time, connecting with the local press is important, too.
I’m not sure how much readers care, but I don’t like opening up a local newspaper to find the majority of photos bylined to Getty, Reuters or the Associated Press. Local press photographers are important, too. They’re the ones who work with the community and hopefully have an established rapport there — and isn’t that why political candidates tour the country and hit up mid-sized towns? To connect with the community? What better way to do that than to allow good access to local press at their events?
All of that serves to illustrate why I found the Politico article to be so interesting, especially since Obama’s administration has promised transparency and accessibility. Those two grafs prompted me to look up a little more about Pete Souza and White House photographers, which led to the aforementioned photojournalism discussion with various Tweeple — but that’s for a later post that will come today.