The White House-based press corps was prohibited from photographing Mr. Obama on his first day at work in January 2009. Instead, a set of carefully vetted images was released. Since then the press has been allowed to photograph him alone in the Oval Office only twice: in 2009 and in 2010, both times when he was speaking on the phone. Pictures of him at work with his staff in the Oval Office — activities to which previous administrations routinely granted access — have never been allowed.
Instead, here’s how it’s done these days: An event involving the president discharging his official duties is arbitrarily labeled “private,” with media access prohibited. A little while later an official photo is released on the White House Flickr page, or via Twitter to millions of followers. Private? Hardly.
These so-called private events include meetings with world leaders and other visitors of major public interest — just the sorts of activities photojournalists should, and used to, have access to.
In response to these restrictions, 38 of the nation’s largest and most respected media organizations (including The New York Times) delivered a letter to the White House last month protesting photojournalists’ diminished access.