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November 21st, 2013

An interesting issue for photojournalists: press photographers are mad at the White House!  Major news organizations petitioned the White House for access to photograph events involving the president.  Their letter argues that access “has decreased markedly under the Obama administration when compared to previous presidents.”  The letter also suggests that access restriction is unconstitutional, and it lists some examples, including meetings with foreign leaders, U.S. senators, and Malala Yousafzai.

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The White House argues that these events are private.  Journalists object that the White House releases through social media some of the images captured by the official White House photographer.   If these events are so private, then why do they pop up on social media?  Does the White House need to adjust its privacy settings?  And are these vetted images really a substitute for independent press attention?

But social media outlets were unavailable to previous administrations!  Past presidents might have stored these images in archives less readily available.  To release images of private presidential events does not necessarily contradict the privacy of these events; it could actually expand the availability of private events.

Meanwhile, South African photographers illegally photographed President Jacob Zuma’s private residence, which features “a mini-football pitch, gym, helicopter pads, a tuck-shop for one of his four wives and even a reported 98,400-dollar pen for his livestock.” To photograph Zuma’s residence can get you arrested, but aerial views are available on Google Earth: a tweet with the Google Earth co-ordinates of the compound, released by journalist Barry Bateman, was an instant hit on Twitter.

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