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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Press Flap Over Access While Palin Meets World Leaders

It was announced last week Sarah Palin would privately meet with world leaders here for the United Nations annual autumn General Assembly Session. Earlier reports said campaign aides were excluding print and wire media outlets from covering the meetings.

There is much buzz going around the Internet about Sarah Palin's meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and how campaign aides originally told print and wire service journalists they were barred from the pool of reporters accompanying Palin to those meetings.

They were told photographers could attend the meetings but not the writers, which set the press into a full scale revolt.

Journalists protested the campaign's decision to exclude all but photographers and a TV crew from Palin's sessions with foreign leaders. CNN decided to withdraw its TV crew, effectively denying Palin the high visibility she sought for her initial foray into world affairs. The campaign then reversed course, saying pool reporters — a small group that provides information to all media — could attend the meetings planned after Karzai hosted Palin at his suite in The Barclay New York Hotel.

(Example of a pool report further down in the article.)

Later campaign spokeswoman, Tracey Schmitt, said it was a "mix-up" and the flap was from miscommunication among the staff and later agreed to allow some pool reporters in.

The Associated Press reports a television producer with a notepad was originally denied access into President Karzai's suite, but a Palin campaign official stepped in and allowed him to pass according to a pool report.

More on that exchange from The Politico, the reporter which was first barred access was CNN’s Peter Hamby and he reports the "handler" who tried to deny him access by saying "no writers" appeared to be with Karzais’ entourage and the Palin official that stepped in was Palin’s deputy chief of staff, Chris Edwards.

The Caucus reports that word now is that a print reporter will be allowed in at the next two meetings.

It is not uncommon for meetings with world leaders to be pooled, but in the past the McCain campaign has at times allowed print reporters and televisions producers to look in and report any color – or exchange of pleasantries, usually banal – that occurs.

Subsequently a CNN producer into the room for the meetings, reports LA Times' Top of the Ticket, and as of the latest reports, reporters will have access to her meetings with remaining leaders.

Routinely reporters are allowed to witness the beginning of private meetings with world leaders, although not allowed to stay for the whole meeting. Generally they are allowed to snap pictures, report the general "meet and greet" portion of the meetings, sometimes yell out a few questions which are usually ignored, then are escorted out.

The flap here was about campaign staff refusing to allow the writers in since Palin nor Karzai were taking questions and simply allowing cameras, and when the press threatened to revolt, the campaign reversed their position and allowed some pool reporters in.

Example of a pool report:

Play-by-play: After the conclusion of the Karzai meeting, your pooler departed the InterContinental shortly after 12:35 p.m. EST in the motorcade headed for 14 E. 76th St. We arrived 12 minutes later, and your pool held briefly in an unlit, musty hallway. We then climbed a white, carpeted staircase and were escorted into an ornate room with a large glass chandelier where the meeting was held.

Your pool was for half a minute. Palin was already seated on a pink stuffed chair, to the right of Uribe, with her legs crossed and her body titled forward. They exchanged pleasantries that your pooler could not hear over the loud clicks of the cameras. On a couch to her right (a few feet back but perpendicular to her chair) sat Scheunemann and Biegun.

Palin exited the building with Uribe around 1:20 p.m. EST. They posed briefly for the cameras (assorted members of the non-pool press, possibly the foreign press, had gathered outside) and exchanged small talk. Your pooler could only hear Palin say to Uribe: “Thank you for your work.”

Palin wore small, gold, dangly earrings in the shape of the state of Alaska. Her hair was tightly secured atop of her head and her shoes were black patent leather round toed heels

The Politico article provides the standard pool report from the Karzai meeting and the Uribe meeting, which included a description for each scenario, who sat where and what they were wearing and the what they heard of the greetings and beginnings of conversation, which is one case wasn't much over the loud clicking of the cameras, the reporter says.

Palin has not held a news conference since she was chosen as the GOP vice presidential candidate to John McCain and has had three sit-down interviews, one with ABC's Charles Gibson, one with Sean Hannity from Fox News and an interview along with John McCain for People magazine.

Palin's next interview with be with CBS's Katie Couric.

As you can see from the example of the pool report above, the whole flap is simply amusing. I don't care what kind of earrings Palin wore or her shoe preference or what they two looked like sitting together. All that can be seen from the photos, which makes the actual reporters, redundant.