WASHINGTON – The White House and news media representatives agreed Tuesday to work toward expanding access to President Obama's public duties to give photo journalists a less restricted view of the president at work.
Participants in a White House meeting said the session did not resolve the coverage issues recently raised by a group of news organizations and media associations but said they were hopeful the discussion marked progress. Discussions will continue next month.
Associated Press Senior Managing Editor Mike Oreskes said the media representatives were encouraged by the commitment expressed by White House press secretary Jay Carney. "The proof will be in the outcome," Oreskes said.
Carney called it a "constructive meeting" and said he is interested in finding ways to address the concerns raised by photographers.
"We agreed that a smaller group would meet again next month to consider various proposals for how to do that," Carney said.
Dozens of leading news organizations have complained about restrictions that at times have kept journalists from taking pictures and video of Obama performing official duties while the White House releases pictures taken by the president's staff.
"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," said Steve Thomma, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Protests about access to presidents are not unique to this White House. The press and past presidential press secretaries have clashed over similar disputes. But journalists say the current restrictions run counter to Obama's promise to lead the most transparent administration in history
While news organizations have complained about the release of White House photos depicting the president performing his duties, the focus of Tuesday's meeting was simply on expanding access for photo journalists, participants said.
"If we're in the room at the same time, we don't mind competing with the White House cameras," Thomma said.
Represented in the meeting were the White House Correspondents' Association, the Associated Press Media Editors, the American Society of News Editors, television networks and the White House News Photographers Association.