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White House and SF Chronicle Debate the Tape

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, April 29 2011

The San Francisco Chronicle reporters and its editor say that think that the Obama White House is overreacting to reporter Carla Marinucci pulling out a pocket video camera when a protest broke out during an Obama fundraiser at San Francisco's St. Regis hotel and posting the resulting video online while she part of the "print-only pool" covering the event.

The Obama White House, for its part, says that it thinks the Chronicle is overreacting.

"The San Francisco Chronicle violated the coverage rules that they -- and every other media outlet -- agreed to as part of joining the press pool for that event," says White House press secretary Jay Carney in a statement passed along by the White House. "If they thought the rules were too restrictive they should have raised that at the beginning. However, no reporters have been banned from covering future presidential events and the White House of course would have no problem including any reporter who follows the rules in pool-only events." In her work, Marinucci uses video, something she refers to Shaky Hands Productions.

It's the rule infraction that seems to really be rankling the White House, but the incident raises the question of how much sense the rules make in modern times.

If part the appeal of "print-only" coverage is that it does away with what used to be the preparation and bulky videocamera equipment and necessary to tape events, the existance of the Flip cam, iPhone, and other pocket cams challenge the premise of the rule. Given that Obama the candidate is going to be surrounded by scores of people -- press and 'audience' alike -- who each have a powerful videocamera in their pocket, that discussion is probably going to have to happen sooner rather than later.