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How Photos from Obama’s Speech on Bin Laden’s Death Were Staged

There is a fascinating piece at Poynter that describes how since the Reagan era (and possibly before) it has been the standard operating procedure that during a live presidential address, like the one President Obama gave announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, still cameras are not allowed to photograph the actual event.

Photojournalists from Reuters and AP described how President Obama basically had to silently re-enact part of his speech for the still cameras after giving it.

Reuters White House photographer Jason Reed writes:

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.

The reason still cameras are not allowed during live presidential addresses is because of the noise from the camera shutters and the placement of the teleprompter, not for any sinister conspiracy-type reasons like we were hoping. And it’s been going on a long time.

The problem, according to Poynter, is that while many newspapers disclose that the photo they use is a re-enactment, some do not. And publishing these photos goes against the National Press Photographers Association Code of Ethics, which includes this relevant passage: “Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.”

We had no idea there was an ethics code for photojournalists, and we’re thrilled to find out there is one. How dare the White House force them to abandon it! We feel shocked and lied to! This practice of re-staging must come to an end.

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