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New York Times photographer challenges White House and Congress

Stephen crowley king 
 First a bit of disclosure - The author of this New York Times item is Washington photographer Stephen Crowley, brother of Crowley Political Report editor Brian E. Crowley.

Stephen Crowley, who has covered politics for more than 25 years, has traveled the world for the New York Times taking pictures in hot spots in Africa, Asia, Afghanistan and numerous other places. He won a Pulitzer Prize as part of a team of photographers shooting in Afghanistan.

Today, Crowley wrote at length about White House manipulation of news events and their recent "restaging" of part of President Obama's announcement about the death of Osama bin Laden. He also questions the release of White House photos that suggest events are far different than the reality.

Crowley expresses deep concern about the new direction of manipulation that results in a less than a candid photographic record of events.

Crowley writes:

In 25 years covering politics, I’ve witnessed many staged events. I cannot recall an event I covered that was restaged.

It’s not that I’m against either. But a staged or restaged situation — often rich in absurdity and unintended humor — is a bit of stagecraft that should be celebrated for exactly what it is: sophistry.

Crowley also expresses concern about the media's use of White House photographs.

Most politicians want to limit, stage, manipulate and control their events. The nervous, distrustful and risk-averse White House press office prefers it if the media use communications-director-vetted photos off the official Flickr site — the “paper of record” for this administration. Many publications do. But one should not expect a great deal of journalistic candor from the White House staff of world-class former photojournalists.

Crowley also notes that Congress is no better.

On Capitol Hill, in the distant past, a photographer’s flash powder may have scared the horses or set a powdered wig on fire. There seems to be no other reason for the fact that photographers and news cameras are still banned from covering the House and the Senate in session. The video feeds you see are provided by government-controlled robotic cameras.

Congress simply refuses to change the rule to allow independent coverage, claiming only a desire to preserve the decorum of the chamber.

How is it, then, that there never seem to be too many photographers or too many noisy cameras at campaign stops or when lawmakers have signature pieces of legislation to unveil? Maybe the discomfort lies in the prospect of being photographed in the company of a former member of the House who is now a lobbyist and using his floor privileges to buttonhole sitting representatives about pending legislation.

 You can read Crowley's entire report here

Follow us on Twitter @crowleyreport

Photo by Stephen Crowley


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Annie Otto

I find your insights brilliant and courageous. I admire your commitment to journalistic authenticity. I have been moved by your photographs on line and would like to know more. Were either of your parents photographers or in politics at all, or journalists? You and your brother have such talents and use them to make America more free for all.

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