April 6, 2014

Obama, Ortiz and White House Photo Access: When You Can't Handle Your Own Pitching

Ortiz Obama selfie Twitter

“That was one of those things that just happened,” Ortiz told the Globe. “I gave him the jersey, and the photographers were going to take their pictures and I thought, really at the last second, maybe I should snap a shot with my phone while I have the chance. It had nothing to do with no deals.”

— via The Boston Globe

If the media sphere and the White House were all fired up over the David Ortiz/Samsung stealing of the President’s mug, that wasn’t the only “Samsung-ing” of the Obamas last week. If less celebrity wattage kept the second capture somewhat under the radar, Michelle was “Samsung-ed” too.

You remember Joey Hudy, the “marshmallow kid,” who starred in this wildly popular photo op from the freshly-elected BHO’s White House science fair back in February 2012 , don’t you?  Well, Michelle Obama invited Joey, now 17, back to the White House to attend the State of the Union. Then, look who else ended up on Samsung’s Twitter feed just seven days before the Red Sox imbroglio?

Joey Hudy Samsung Michelle Obama selfie

Joey Hudy Michelle Obama Selfie

(Why Joey’s Samsung showed up on his feed — retweeted immediately by Samsung — two months and four days after the SOTU, but just a week before the Ortiz home run, is a mystery to me, but maybe not to them. (And here, for the purists, is the fuzzy selfie itself.)

But, where’s the real substance here, with the White House so exercised that selfies are facing a ban?

It has to do with two things, visual filibustering and this Presidency’s obsession with popular and commercial culture — the administration pushing the boundaries on both fronts. After years of the White House monopolizing the President’s image, asserting exclusivity and producing their own high-crafted imagery out of standard photo ops, then self-publishing the imagery besides, how could anyone feel that the White House, with Big Papi in the house, got anything but what they deserved?

Samsung Ortiz Obama Tweet

What Ortiz/Samsung pulled off last week was nothing more and nothing less a double play. Whether or not the slugger had snapped that picture, they already scored prominent coverage of the cell in multiple wire photos as a product placement. Then, of course, the media went completely bats over the selfie and the story of the (alleged) setup.

Barack obama david ortiz Kaster

Ortiz obama AP Photo Manuel Balce Ceneta

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the White House barring the press from photographing Obama with the Dalai Lama, warning that the media would not stand idly by. It’s one thing for the White House to cry foul (or foul ball), but what happened last week was completely predictable.

Did you happen to see the photo from a few weeks back, of French journalist Thomas Wieder and posse making selfies with Obama and President Hollande in the background. The Gaul! …Or, Ortiz in the making. Removing visual opportunities from the press while fattening the public’s diet with all that choreography is not a zero sum game. If the White House felt they were being ripped off while the President was made to look like a goat, well … join the herd.

Weider French journalists Obama

Finally, the other issue here has to do with the lengths to which this White House is willing to mine popular and brand culture. (And, how many Clooneys would you find on a White House Flickr site, one or two? … Plus news wire-wise, a few more.) Sure, Presidents in the past have added an accent by way of a celebrity drop-by here or a commercial reference there.  In contrast, the visual fabric of this Administration has been stitched together out of America’s most popular and familiar bits, bouncing from Letterman to Leno and back again, crafting eye catching photo ops out of Apple Computers, GE generators or the all-too-overt Dunkin’ Donuts box to demonstrate, I assume, that the President is just folks.

Obama Dunkin Donuts

Really, are you telling me the White House was that upset someone stole its thunder as the championship team of the moment trotted into the White House so the Sports Fan-in-Chief could bask in the shine?












I mean, did anyone say: double standard?

(photo 1: David Ortiz/Twitter . photo 5: Carolyn Kaster/AP. caption: Boston Red Sox designated hitter David “Big Papi” Ortiz takes a selfie with President Barack Obama, holding a Boston Red Sox jersey presented to him, during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, where the president honored the 2013 World Series baseball champion Boston Red Sox. Ortiz tweeted the selfie to his followers Tuesday, and it was resent by tens of thousands, including Samsung, which retweeted it as an ad. The White House press secretary says Obama was not aware that the photo was part of a marketing stunt. photo 6: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP. photo 8: unattributed/GoogleImages. photos 9-19. thumbnails/Google Images.)

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Michael Shaw
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