The president was inaugurated in front of adoring crowds and positive reviews in the media. As the unpopular incumbent sat on the platform with him, the new Democratic chief executive took office as the nation faced a crippling economic crisis. The incoming president was a charismatic figure who had run a brilliant campaign and had handled the press with aplomb. The media were ready to give him a break.
That was 1933, and in Franklin Roosevelt’s case, the media gave him a break.
For Barack Obama, the honeymoon was shorter.
Less than 36 hours after Obama took the oath of office, the White House denied news photographers access to the new president’s do-over swearing in, instead releasing official White House photos of the event. Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse protested and refused to distribute the official photos (which nevertheless showed up on the websites of a number of large U.S. newspapers).
This is an important issue for news organisations, the public and for an administration that has promised a new era of transparency in doing the people’s business. How are people to know, for example, that the official photos haven’t been staged?
All U.S. administrations seek to manage the flow of information and the White House and the news media have a complex, interdependent relationship. Each needs the other. But it’s important that media organisations remember who’s most important.