News Access Issues Concern Those Covering Obama

News organizations that cover the White House sparred with the Obama administration on Thursday over access issues for photographers and rules for briefings.

Representatives from Obama's press office held a conference call with photo editors, who are concerned that the administration prefers distributing photos taken by a White House photographer in cases where photojournalists have been permitted access in the past. It was unclear whether the two sides had reached any accommodation.

The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse refused to distribute photos taken by the White House of the new president on his first day in the Oval Office because of the dispute. Still photographers were also not given access to Obama's do-over oath of office administered Wednesday night by Chief Justice John Roberts and an economics meeting on Thursday.

Television network bureau chiefs also protested the exclusion of video cameras from the second oath of office.

"We're in an awkward phase and there will be bumps in the road," said Christopher Isham, CBS News Washington bureau chief. "Hopefully they will be speed bumps rather than obstacles."

Four reporters witnessed the oath of office and shared their observations with others, and a White House photo was released.

"We think it was done in a way that was upfront and transparent," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a briefing when questioned why video cameras were not present.

Pressed on the matter, Gibbs said, "we would have had to get a bigger room."

The Associated Press also questioned on Thursday why reporters were not allowed to use the names of administration officials giving a background briefing on issues regarding the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

Background briefings are hardly new in Washington, and were frequently conducted during the Bush and Clinton administrations. But the AP wanted to establish early with the administration that it's important to get information on the record as often as possible, said Michael Oreskes, managing editor for U.S. news.

"Information is a lot more valuable to the public if you know where it's coming from," Oreskes said. "So we try very hard in all source situations to identify sources as fully as we can."

Gibbs did not directly address the issue when asked about it later, saying that "I hope that you all found the exercise that we did the morning helpful."


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