Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Reagan wasn't the last actor in the White House

A fascinating look behind the scenes of Obama's speech to the nation Sunday night, from Reuters photographer Jason Reed:
This photo was not taken during the speech!
As President Obama continued his nine-minute address in front of just one main network camera, the photographers were held outside the room by staff and asked to remain completely silent. Once Obama was off the air, we were escorted in front of that teleprompter and the President then re-enacted the walk-out and first 30 seconds of the statement for us.

Obama's re-enactment

Poynter.org researched the history:
Doug Mills, New York Times photojournalist and former Associated Press staffer, says it has been done this way “always, always … well, as long as I have covered the White House, going back to the Reagan administration. We [still photographers] have never, never, never, ever been allowed to cover a live presidential address to the nation!”

Poynter’s Senior Faculty for Visual Journalism, Kenny Irby, explains, “The most obvious concern is noise. The 35mm cameras emit shutter noise, that would be multiplied by several photographers and increased by the echo which resonates off of the marble floors. The other visual distraction is the placement of the teleprompter that impedes the photographers’ line of sight to the president.”
That article concludes:
It is time for this kind of re-enactment to end. The White House should value truth and authenticity. The technology clearly exists to document important moments without interrupting them. Photojournalists and their employers should insist on and press for access to document these historic moments.

In the meantime, anyone who uses these recreations should clearly disclose to the reader the circumstances under which they were captured.

Apparently, wire service photographers will happily descend that slippery slope between news and acting.

This is of course not nearly as bad as the fauxtography and staged photos we are so used to seeing coming out of the Middle East. Even so, one would hope that the White House would not be acting like Hezbollah in even this small way.

(h/t PB)