White House Issues "Non-Response" to 38 J-Groups on Spin Complaint

August 13, 2014

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded belatedly on August 11, 2014 to 38 journalism groups that had complained on July 8, 2014, about Obama administration press offices blocking journalists' access to federal officials.

But it was a "non-response," according to David Cuillier, president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Earnest recited a list of actions the Obama administration had taken to improve transparency at federal agencies — but did not address the substance of the journalism groups' main complaint: that "public agencies have increasingly prohibited staff from communicating with journalists unless they go through public affairs offices or through political appointees."

After sending their letter of complaint to Obama July 8, the groups heard nothing back from the White House. Then on August 5 they sent a follow-up to the White House complaining about the lack of response. Meanwhile, more journalism groups signed on to the original letter of complaint, bringing the total to 48.

SPJ published Earnest's answer on its front web page, along with ancillary links.

"Typical spin and response through non-response," said SPJ President David Cuillier after hearing from Earnest. "While we applaud efforts to increase people’s access to their government through websites and FOIA, nowhere does the White House address specific concerns about excessive message management and preventing journalists from getting information on behalf of citizens."