White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is trying to take the edge off media frustration about lack of access to President Obama.
Carney met with media representatives at the White House Tuesday afternoon and said he would consider their requests for more access for news photographers, although he didn't agree to any specific changes, participants said.
"The proof will be in the outcome," said Associated Press Senior Managing Editor Mike Oreskes. Carney said it was a "constructive meeting" and added that he wanted to have further discussions about news photographers' complaints that they are too often excluded from coverage of the president.
Many news organizations are upset with restrictions on the photographers and, more broadly, the Obama White House's practice of keeping journalists at a distance from the president. The immediate flash point was on the issue of releasing pictures by the official White House photographer while news photographers are excluded from events. Thirty-seven news organizations and the White House Correspondents' Association sent Carney a letter recently complaining about such restrictions.
After news photographers were denied access to Obama and former President George W. Bush on a flight aboard Air Force One to the funeral of former South African leader Nelson Mandela last week, media frustration boiled over at one of Carney's media briefings and he was peppered with complaints.
"We asked that they have the presumption that they will grant access every time the president does something of public interest so that there's always a need to find some reason to exclude us rather than finding a reason to include us," Steve Thomma, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, told The Associated Press after Tuesday's meeting.
The WHCA issued a statement that, "Representatives of the White House Correspondents' Association, the American Society of News Editors, Associated Press Media Editors, White House News Photographers' Association, National Press Photographers' Association and representatives of the television network pool met with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and members of his staff and White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler today to discuss the ongoing issue of media access to the president.
"The group stressed the need for consistent, meaningful access to the president for photographers and the full White House press corps.
"Group members were encouraged by Carney's recognition that independent press access to the president is essential to democracy, as well as his willingness to address the group's concerns by agreeing to engage in an ongoing dialogue with media representatives, led by the WHCA."
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.