White House: iPhone's Don't Count


The media world is fast-changing. And many reporting tools are now more effectively carried and wielded as one device: a smart phone. It's such a monumental shift that some professional reporters, BW staff included, find themselves using smart phones as much, if not more, than traditional reporting tools.

But not all newsmakers are on board with the shift.

When First Lady Michelle Obama gave the commencement address at Oregon State University on June 17, Helen Silvis, news multimedia editor at The Skanner, Portland, Ore.'s historically black newspaper, was given the proper accreditation to be a part of the photography pool. But when she experienced problems with the memory card on her camera, she instead pulled out her iPhone:

A White House staffer suddenly excluded me, and later two other people, from the photography pool. She prevented us from doing our jobs, not because we weren’t invited and accredited to be there, but because, she said, our cameras were not big enough.

In a similar vein, BW once interviewed presidential candidate Ron Paul with an iPhone. Though the candidate didn't object, a commenter on the story claiming to be another member of the press pool, took issue with our use of the iPhone.

Silvis summarized the issue well:

But what happened in Reser Stadium is bigger than one news story. White House staffers should not be dictating which tools journalists can use to do our jobs—especially when their judgment is based on outdated prejudices that bear no relation to the realities of reporting in the digital age.

Full disclosure: Helen Silvis was one one my journalism instructors at Portland Community College.