Time photographer moonlights for Obama

Politico reports:

Time’s current issue is chock-full of Callie Shell photos, the news magazine benefiting from her incredible access to the first family on inauguration day. But on Jan 5, Shell took pictures in a very different role than her journalistic one—allowing her work to be sent out as official White House transition press releases.

Shell’s dual roles have blurred the lines of journalism, leaving Time embarrassed and White House photographers stewing.

The article continues:

[The day after the inauguration], Time.com published the first photo of Obama in the oval office—a much-talked-about shot of the new president on the phone at his desk, coolly breaking Bush White House tradition of appearing sans jacket.

Conversely, three wires services—the AP, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse—were not given access to the oval office, as is customary on day one, and later refused to distribute the White House-approved photos.

Michael Oreskes, the AP’s managing editor for U.S. News, called the approved shots “visual press releases.”

Oreskes comment hits on a common double standard between print journalism and photo-journalism. Of course, a newspaper editor wouldn’t plunk a White House press release verbatim on page one, but it’s more acceptable give A1 real estate to a White House-approved photo. . .

In Shell’s case, her friendly gestures—whether photographing the girls or giving away pictures—has seemed like a too-cozy relationship to some in the press corps. 

“The real problem lies in the perception,” said one White House photographer. “Do [readers] think when they pick up Time magazine they are getting objective coverage?”

Look, this isn’t hard to understand.  Shell does some moonlighting work for the Obama transition, pro bono.  The Obama White House, in return for the favor and because it knows Shell’s work will be favorable, gives Time exclusive access to the Oval Office on inauguration day.  Both Time and President Obama win.  Journalistic integrity loses, but it usually does.

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