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We're All Journalists, Indeed: Obama Campaign Guests Checked Mobile Phones at the Door

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, May 15 2012

Zeke Miller at Buzzfeed, studiously reading pool reports from President Barack Obama's recent campaign fundraisers, catches something: the Obama campaign, per Washington Post pooler David Nakamura, appears to be collecting mobile phones from event attendees at the door, and storing them in plastic bags. At least, that was the case at a Monday event in New York City.


An Obama aide called the move it "standard operating procedure," but veterans of a range of other campaigns said they'd never heard of the practice, which is common in secure White House spaces where there are concerns of espionage, but unknown in contexts in which only political secrets are discussed. The new prevalence of sophisticated audio and recording capacities in mobile devices owned by virtually anyone wealthy enough to write a check to a political campaign, however, has put a new pressure on campaigns concerned with staying on a public message.

The policy, as Miller notes, brings with it echoes of 2008. That year, Mayhill Fowler reported that then-Senator Obama said it was no surprise that Pennsylvanians "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Accompanying her report was audio from the private California event, closed to traditional press, where Obama made those remarks. Fowler got the scoop as a citizen journalist with the Huffington Post "Off the Bus" project. Fowler's reporting from the campaign trail in 2008 was thought at the time to lend credence to the adage, "we are all journalists now." Given how often journalists must negotiate over rules of engagement — such as the rules under which pool reporters were allowed to accompany President Obama on his recent surprise trip to Afghanistan — perhaps this is only becoming more true, not less.