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White House Press Corps Upset Over Lack Of Transparency At Executive Order Signing

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The White House press corps is upset that President Obama kept reporters from covering his signing of the Bart Stupak Mollification Executive Order Of 2010, instead opting to unceremoniously sign the order behind closed doors and issue a photograph after the fact, reports Politico. As Kendra Marr notes:

The White House did not allow news reporters or photographers into Wednesday's Oval Office signing of the order reaffirming a ban on federal funding of abortion. Instead, it released an official photograph by White House photographer Pete Souza that some news organizations, including CNN and POLITICO, declined to use.

"That is not independent coverage," CNN's Ed Henry said of the photo on "The Situation Room." "While Pete Souza is a great photographer, he's on the White House payroll."

Lord knows I'm only too happy to mock the press corps when it gets too whiny about its treatment, but in this case, Ed Henry is absolutely right! While the existence of a Pete Souza photo of the event provides a nominal amount of transparency, it's important to remember that Souza is not at the White House to provide news coverage. He's there to provide a hagiographic chronicling of the Obama White House.

So, yes: when Obama passes by a portrait of Lincoln, or tosses a football, or stares ruefully into the middle distance, or is framed by anything, Pete Souza is there.

Also, Souza is good at taking pictures of place settings, and bowls of fruit, and... well, whatever the hell this is. The Souza photos the White House chooses to display all are released on the dedicated White House Flickr Feed, and they are fun to peruse -- but this is not "transparency."

Though some people have confused it as such!

"What about allowing us in, for openness and transparency?" a reporter asked, to which Gibbs shot back, "We'll have a nice picture from Pete that will demonstrate that type of transparency."

No, no! A "nice picture from Pete" is an invented, hyper-managed image. This is a matter that Ana Marie Cox and I have previously addressed:

Um, hey... we think that this notion that the pictures of Pete Souza and friends create some form of transparency, for "the people" is a little mangled. These are staged shots, taken by photographers who hump around the White House grounds, hiding in trees and shooting fruit bowls. This is arty, nature photography--just focused on the White House. Reality is a made thing, and Pete Souza will frame it in a doorway, or the window of an automobile.

So, yes: Pete Souza is not a substitute for "news coverage." Sorry!

The Annotated White House Flickr Feed, with Ana Marie Cox and Jason Linkins: A Message To You, Salahi [The Awl]

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