WASHINGTON – White House press secretary Jay Carney pushed back Friday against a San Francisco Chronicle report that claimed the White House "threatened" to exclude the paper from having its reporter file print-pool reports at future Obama events in the Bay Area.
“The San Francisco Chronicle violated the coverage rules that they -– and every other media outlet –- agreed to as part of joining the press pool for that event,” Carney told The Huffington Post. “If they thought the rules were too restrictive they should have raised that at the beginning."
“However,” Carney continued, “no reporters have been banned from covering future presidential events and the White House of course would have no problem including any reporter who follows the rules in pool-only events.”
The Chronicle-White House back-and-forth has brought into focus a common practice among journalists on the White House beat that is not widely known by the public. When Obama travels around the country, for instance, the White House permits a local reporter to file a "pool report" that can be used by the rest of the press corps who are not in attendance. In the White House's view, the Chronicle's reporter violated agreed-upon ground rules by taking video footage of a protest during an April 21 Obama fundraiser and posting it online.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told POLTICO earlier on Friday that claims in the Chronicle piece are “not true."
Chronicle editor Ward Bushee, responding to Earnest’s comment, stood by today's report, which did not name the White House official who allegedly threatened the paper.
“Sadly, we expected the White House to respond in this manner based on our experiences yesterday,” Bushee said in an email. ”It is not a truthful response. It follows a day of off-the-record exchanges required by key people in the White House communications office who told us it would remove our reporter, then threatened retaliation to Chronicle and Hearst reporters if we reported on the ban, and then recanted to say our reporter might not be removed after all.”
“If the White House has indeed decided not to ban our reporter,” Bushee added, “we would like an on-the-record notice that she will remain the San Francisco print pool reporter.”
Carney, after being told of Bushee's comment, obliged. "If the San Francisco Chronicle wants to participate in White House Press Pools -- and agrees to follow the rules like any other media organization -- it is welcome to participate," he said.
The Chronicle, in its news report, also questioned the Obama administration’s new media bona fides and long-standing pledge to be the most transparent White House in history. Phil Bronstein, the paper’s editor-at-large, wrote on his blog that “the hip, transparent and social media-loving Obama administration is showing its analog roots [and] maybe even some hypocrisy highlights.” The editorial board also weighed in in an article titled “Administration exercises its control freak streak.”
It may seem strange for reporters -- who routinely upload camera videos to blogs or photos on Twitter -- to be bound to only text when covering an event featuring the president. Moreover, some people attending the fundraiser were took photos and videos of the impromptu protest in support of suspected WikiLeaks source Pvt. Bradley Manning. So why shouldn’t a reporter on hand use the tools in their possession to also capture such a newsworthy moment?
Well, because White House makes the rules determining when press are permitted at private Obama events and -- in allowing a pool reporter -- what methods of communication the press are allowed to use. CBS’s Mark Knoller, for one, has recently been challenging the White House over how many fundraisers have been closed to the press.
The White House Correspondents Association, which oversees the pool rotation among news outlets staffed in Washington D.C., is expected to take up the issue of multimedia coverage from print pool reporters at its next meeting since the topic has come up more as "print" reporters incorporate photos and video in their daily work.
As for the Chronicle-White House war of words, USA Today reporter and WHCA president David Jackson told The Huffington Post that he plans on talking to people on both sides “next week and try to resolve this.”
Jackson, however, has a lot on his plate with his organization’s annual star-studded dinner taking place Saturday night. "Right now -- I'm embarrassed to say -- I'm too busy with the dinner planning to devote full attention to this issue," he said.