March 18, 2014

Associated Press

AP’s White House correspondent Julie Pace and its chief White House photographer Charles Dharapak warned colleagues on Tuesday that once the press loses its access to the president, it cannot be recovered.

The journalists delivered their remarks at the Newspaper Association of America’s mediaXchange conference in Denver.

Media organizations have criticized the Obama administration for restricting access to many presidential events and meetings, including with foreign leaders like the Dalai Lama in February. The White House News Photographers Association urged members not to publish the official image of the meeting distributed by the administration.

“Once we lose access, we’ll never get it back,” Dharapak said at the NAA event, where he also repeated a reference to the handout photos as “visual press releases.”

Charles Dharapak, chief White House photographer for the AP, projects one of his photographs of President Barack Obama while speaking to editors and publishers at the Newspaper Association of America’s mediaXchange 2014 convention in Denver. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

“The AP has a policy against using White House handout photos unless they are of significant news value and were shot in places to which the press does not expect access, such as private residence areas of the White House,” the AP reported Tuesday. Many prominent news organizations have similar policies.

Kenny Irby, Poynter’s senior faculty for visual journalism, has said White House photographer Pete Souza’s role is more of a “propagandist” than a photojournalist, adding that Obama’s photo practices have broken his promise of transparency in government.

Meanwhile, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said at the conference that his news organization is in the process of filling 20 to 30 positions to bolster its coverage of states and state legislatures. An AP spokesman confirmed to Poynter that the figure includes hires made near the end of 2013 and hires expected to be made in coming months.

Pruitt also mentioned AP’s effort to provide databases to local news sources.

Related: ASNE president expects ‘concrete steps’ after meeting with White House about access | PoynterVision: White House photo practices break promise of open government | Photojournalists want better access to the White House

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Sam Kirkland is Poynter's digital media fellow, focusing on mobile and social media trends. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times as a digital editor,…
Sam Kirkland

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