I don't know if you're aware, but tonight is Nerd Prom, also known as The White House Correspondents' Dinner. Unfortunately, the date between the White House and those who cover it has become just a little more awkward than usual. If you
April 30, 2011

I don't know if you're aware, but tonight is Nerd Prom, also known as The White House Correspondents' Dinner. Unfortunately, the date between the White House and those who cover it has become just a little more awkward than usual.

If you are a San Francisco Bay area resident, you know the name Carla Marinucci. She's been covering politics for the San Francisco Chronicle for years. If you are masochistic enough to attend those events yourself, you will see Marinucci there with a recording device of some sort, the better to more accurately reflect what politicians will say in response to her questions. I've seen Marinucci recording protests on (what I presume to be) her cellphone personally, as well as other reporters and bloggers. To the best of my knowledge, this is pretty standard operating procedure for most reporters, even the "pad and paper" types, and doesn't usually present a problem, even to the subjects of said recording.


Marinucci was granted a press pass last month to cover an Obama fundraiser in San Francisco. During the fundraiser, a group that called themselves Fresh Juice Party stood up to sing a protest song against the treatment of Bradley Manning, after paying $76,000 for a table at the fundraiser (tangentially, Nicole Sandler interviewed Naomi Pitcairn of Fresh Juice, and I'm not entirely clear that Pitcairn is clear about what she was protesting). Marinucci recorded the event and uploaded the video for her online column. And that's where the trouble begins.

The White House claims that there were specific restrictions against reporters using video at this fundraiser. Now, that could be for security or privacy concerns on behalf of the donors, or the White House could be fearing a repeat of the scandal of Mayhill Fowler's reporting of Obama saying that people cling to guns and God during economically stressful times. But their response to Marinucci's uploading of video was a little over-the-top: they banned her from the press pool for San Francisco events.

Ms Marinucci was part of the 'print pool' - that is, the journalists who have traditionally relied on the written word to tell the story.

However the experienced political reporter used her video phone to shoot some footage of protesters at an Obama fundraiser at the St Regis Hotel on Thursday.

The video caught Mr Obama looking on as protesters demonstrated against the White House's treatment of accused WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning.

The Chronicle defended Ms Marinucci, saying such phones were 'now-standard multi-media tools'.

But the move that is said to have infuriated the White House, resulting in her banning - and even threats to other reporters, according to the Chronicle.

The newspaper slammed the administration as 'hypocrtical', pointing out that the Obama administration has done everything possible to present itself as new media friendly.

That includes a high profile appearance by the President alongside Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently, as well as exhaustive Facebook and Twitter updates from White House officials.

But she was slammed by both the White House and other print reporters there - essentially accused of cheating by using her phone to get the story.

When the Chronicle reported on the ban, the White House press office denied it had happened - sparking an angry response from Chronicle editor Ward Bushee.

He wrote: 'Sadly, we expected the White House to respond in this manner based on our experiences yesterday. It is not a truthful response.

'It follows a day of off-the-record exchanges with key people in the White House communications office who told us they would remove our reporter, then threatened retaliation to Chronicle and Hearst reporters if we reported on the ban, and then recanted to say our reporter might not be removed after all.

'The Chronicle's report is accurate.

'If the White House has indeed decided not to ban our reporter, we would like an on-the-record notice that she will remain the San Francisco print pool reporter.'

Chronicle editor-at-large Phil Bronstein added on his blog: 'Messy ball now firmly in White House court.'

Ouch. Banning a reporter for *reporting* because she had the temerity to use a video camera rather than a keyboard? Quite a change from an administration promising transparency, isn't it?

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