Thank you very, very much to a FishFraud MVP/future Pulitzer Prize winner who sent in the following incredible research exposing travel blogger Steven Frischling's lies of covering national politics as a photojournalist.
STEVEN FRISCHLING AND POLITICS
Frischling has gone on and on about how he is a seasoned political photographer. Thanks to some help from my friends, we've assembled a huge list of his tales. But first, let me explain how a few things work in the realm of covering politics, especially when traveling with campaigning presidential candidates as well as the press pool that covers the president and vice president. This will help in understanding how he is lying about a lot of the tales we found.
THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS POOLThe White House press pool for still photographers consists of AP, AFP, Reuters, a rotating "agency" pool and a magazine/newspaper slot (currently held by the New York Times). AP, AFP and Reuters and NYT travel with the president everywhere and are considered the "tight pool". They travel on Air Force One, in motorcades and are always with the president when he has any movement. The agency pool only travels in presidential motorcades when the president has movements within close proximity to the White House. The agency pool rotates between (I believe) eight agencies and commits a photographer from each agency to three days a month covering the White House. Photographers in the agency pool DO NOT (except on rare occasions) travel on Air Force One. The traveling press pool pays a hefty price to travel on AF1 and in motorcades with the president with an annual price tag of about a million dollars per agency. If other press does for some reason pay to go on of the president's overseas trips, they do not fly on AF1 but instead are put on a charter.
When the president has an event (like a speech at a college) local press covering the event must submit a request for credential and vital info (like date of birth, social security) days prior to the event for a background check. Everyone who covers a presidential visit will be given a White House press pool pass. They are typically different colors at each event and have a Secret Service sticker attached to it with a number. There are two kinds of these passes, a PL and an L. PL is for pool, which would allow you to temporarily join the traveling press pool in the area called the buffer at the front of the stage or to tag along if the president is touring a facility. The PL passes are given to photographers from the local newspaper and often wire services that aren't in the traveling pool. The L pass is for local press and it gets you a spot on a riser with limited (if any) mobility. I have attached a photo of these passes. I bring this up because Frischling claims in one of the following posts that he has several dozen of these that he apparently wears on his neck as if he were part of the White House press pool. Like I said, everyone who has covered a presidential visit has one of these passes. They mean nothing once the event is over.
PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNSI spoke with a few photographers who traveled extensively with candidates in 2004 and in 2008. When I say traveling, these guys and gals were out for weeks at a time on the candidates planes, motorcades and hotels. I asked if they had ever seen Frisching on a campaign plane. They did not. I asked if they had seen him at Howard Dean's event where he dropped out of the race. They had not. On the Kerry campaign? Nope.
The only coverage I have ever seen of political nature by Frischling is a day he spent with Ralph Nader in 2004, a few days (3 or 4 tops) he spent with Howard Dean at the start of his presidential bid in 2003 (where he had one on one coverage of him riding in a car and talking with aides), three or four days covering Dean on a bus tour through New Hampshire in 2004, a couple events here and there including a debate and election night in Boston covering John Kerry (not as a member of the traveling press.) There was also some Nader event that he covered during the 2000 cycle.
Presidential campaigns are expensive if you are traveling on the plane. Freelancers don't travel on the plane since it can cost between $2,000 and $5,000 (or more) a day depending on how much flying is done. You pay for everything, food, the flight, hotel, press files, food, you name it. Since the amount changes each day based on how many people are traveling, the campaigns always bill out the fees, never ask for money up front. Bus tours are usually more accessible to freelancers and smaller low budget agencies and generally only occur in the early stages of a campaign (like Iowa and New Hampshire).
When Dean was traveling through New Hampshire, the bus fee was probably in the neighborhood of 50 to 100 bucks a day. The buses are usually pretty easy to get on and most photographers avoid them since they usually have to cover multiple candidates in a single day during the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. The bus works for those who are assigned to a single candidate. So, technically, you're not actually "traveling" with the candidate and you're not in any "pool," you're essentially getting a ride to their events and they drop you off at the candidate's headquarters at the end of the day.
The pool for presidential campaigns is usually established once it is determined who the official candidate is (at the party convention) as this is when the candidate gets immediate Secret Service protection – which means police escorted motorcades, tighter restrictions at campaign events for local press and credentials issued to the traveling press by the Secret Service. Like the presidential pool PL passes, select local media would be allowed to join the traveling pool at events for a limited time. Like the White House press pool, the campaign pool runs in a similar fashion with some expansion. It is still AP, AFP and Reuters with other regularly traveling agencies. It does change from time to time, but only in tight situations and then it reverts back to White House rules.
Now let's continue to the stories Frischling has spread about his supposed up-close-and-personal political access...
Part A: The Frischling Fantasies
A) 12/5/07 Digital Wedding Forum –
"While was a full time photojournalist for more than a decade shooting everything from small town weekly council meetings to the war in Iraq and a rural highschool's home coming election to traveling with multiple major presidential candidates in their pool."
B) 11/24/07 Digital Wedding Forum –
"I am sure I'd clear the background check. I have been part of the White House Pool traveling with the President, and Presidential Candidates"
C) Flyertalk – 5/13/08 - http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/travel-safety-security/737272-benefit-clear-2.html#post9717204
"I have had my background checked and rechecked while being credentialed as a news photographer covering the United Nations, having been a member of the US House & Senate Press Photographer's Gallery, having traveled 1-on-1 with presidential candidates and traveled in the White House photo pool, as well as having been an embedded journalist in Iraq and having covered "homeland security"
D) 10/4/07 Digital Wedding Forum
"My F5xb has been great for weddings, the majority of my weddings, as well as multiple trips to Iraq, shooting in four countries , on two continents and one sub-continent chain of islands in a single day (well really more than a day, but the international date line flips you back a day) , two years of covering presidential campaigns heavily on the road (2000 & 2004) and lots of less exciting every day shoots."
E) 11/24/07 Digital Wedding Forum
"Before the Newswear Pouches I used the Domke pouches that I have a dozen of. This set up is used with two bodies (again at times, rarely, 1 body) and I have take this kit on the road for weeks with political talking heads running for office, been to probably two dozen riots, Iraq, and a whole lot of weddings."
F) 9/16/07 Digital Wedding Forum
"Two of the bodies have survived multiple assignments in Iraq, all have enjoyed stints at the Final Four, World Series, Presidential pool gigs, etc.........so why would I trade them in? They do a good job and do the same job they did five/four years ago."
G) 11/7/06 Digital Wedding Forum
"you can't spend 14 days in a car with a Presidential Hopeful before the real massive campaigning kicks off and never speak to them, it is just not possible."
H) 8/24/07 Digital Wedding Forum
"Years of shooting perp-walks in NYC as a wire shooter, covering national and international politics in a press pool, countless court assignments, post-game scrums on the field......all make Uncle Bob easy to work around."
I) 2/19/08 Digital Wedding Forum
"Maybe it is a news thing, but I have done countless 16+hr days shooting news. During the "political season" I could do back to back to back to back 16 hours days bouncing between New Hampshire and Iowa, shoot for 16hrs, get on a plane for a few hours, sleep 2hrs, up for 16hrs, then do it all over again. This could go on for 2 weeks"
J) 11/24/07 Digital Wedding Forum
"I have used this set up for days and weeks on the road shooting political candidates, floating around the world in a week , countless NFL and NCAA football games and a bunch of weddings..."
K) 8/28/07 Digital Wedding Forum
"I have been an agency contract photog traveling with political candidates trying to make unique images daily of the same person doing the same person every day. I have worked for wire services shooting riots and covered war..."
L) 5/2/06 Digital Wedding Forum
"Shooting for 12 to 14hrs is easy. You just get into a good frame of mind and do your job. Journalism was great practice for weddings, traveling in press pools covering political campaigns, the Olympics, riots, a being out on patrols in Iraq."
M) 2/8/07 Digital Wedding Forum
"oh yea, "My Boss" is also glad I no longer cover politics, where I am on the road for at times a few weeks or being shipped off to WTO and G8 riots with some frequency no more showing up before the hurricane and staying until the hurricane has left and no more trips to a hot desert with things being fired at me or items exploding near me."
N) 9/1/07 Sports Shooter http://www.sportsshooter.com/message_display.html?tid=26249
"...and as for politics.....we'll get into that when you ask.....but the traveling press pool is tight and VERY EXPENSIVE , which is why few freelancers do it. When I have done it my client paid all expenses up front with the campaigns I traveled with (and the agency I was shooting for was owned by Bill Gates, so they had the funds, I didn't)."
O) 7/27/09 Sports Shooter http://www.sportsshooter.com/message_display.html?tid=33647
"I've been assigned to be the 1-on-1 documentary photog shooting George HW Bush & Bono, but while I had great access I didn't get to know my subjects. I've photographed two sitting presidents; traveled with two candidates in the final stages of their presidential campaigns; photographed the Pope; The Manning Brothers; countless heads of state at the U.N.; etc etc etc...but so what? I didn't get to know my subjects in any way ."
P) 2/7/04 sports shooter http://www.sportsshooter.com/message_display.html?tid=7350
"Photogs are not necessarily dumping digital on the campaign trail. Jeff Jacobson obviously shot all film, but he followed Dean for a few days while Callie Shell was away, Shell shot a mix of film and digital (although I only saw her with a 28-70 on her EOS 1D for the three days I was on the Dean bus with her, while Jacobson shot only film for the two days he was on the bus). "
Q) 10/1/07 sports shooter http://www.sportsshooter.com/message_display.html?tid=26651
"I have had m bodies since early 2003 and they have shot countless pro football and baseball games, heavily covered political campaign season, been to the middle east a few times, done a bunch of NCAA basketball games and 40+ weddings since early 2003 and the bodies average 1.3mil frame clicks."
R) 10/21/08 sports shooter http://www.sportsshooter.com/message_display.html?tid=31074
"Back in '04 I stood on the risers on Boston until well after 1:00am and John Kerry was a no-show. "
S) 10/10/07 Digital Wedding Forum
"I have had problems with the Secret Service shooting a "corporate portrait" of a U.S. Congressman in front of The White House, no lights, no tripod, no light stands, just me, two cameras, a waist pack and a US Congressman. This was in late 2005. Keep in mind that I was pulled aside, with the Congressmen, while in possesion of, and displaying, my credentials from the U.S. House & Senate The Dept of Defense, the United Nations, the NYPD, Mass. State Police and about two dozen "White House Pool" credentials (both "N" and "L" credentials) from White House events........still took 15-20 min to sort it out.....WITH A CONGRESSMAN!."
Part 2: The Reality
A. Multiple major presidential candidate pools? Who would that be? Dean and Nader don't really count.
B. As I mentioned before, AP, AFP, Reuters and Magazine/newspaper pool plus the agency pool are the only photographers who travel with the president in town. It is possible, but highly unlikely, that he was fulfilling an agency pool spot at the White House for UPI, which would put him in a motorcade and would technically be traveling in the pool. I have never seen a single photo to support this.
C. Again, unless for some bizarre fluke that he was assigned to sit in the agency pool for three days at the White House (extremely unlikely) he has not "traveled" with the pool.
D. Says in the 2000 and 2004 election cycles he was heavily on the road with campaigns. I have not ever seen one photo of Al Gore or George Bush campaigning from 2000 and the extent of his 2004 coverage can be seen here. http://www.upi.com/search/?sp=t&s_l=photos&ss=%22steven+frischling%22&offset=1 And here by searching frischling dean http://worldpicturenews.com/web/IndexPageLightbox.aspx?driverid=9296 And here (which by the way appears that he double dipped by giving pictures from the same event to Bloomberg and UPI – competing wire services) http://www.gettyimages.com/Search/Search.aspx?contractUrl=2&language=en-US&family=editorial&assetType=image&p=steven+frischling+dean
E. Claims to have traveled with candidates for weeks at a time but no wire photographer who has traveled for weeks at a time has ever seen him.
F. States that he has done presidential pool gigs between 2002 and 2007 but has never mentioned this on any other message board and there are no photos to support this other than two times that he shot George Bush at local events from a riser.
G. Says he has spent 14 days in a car with a presidential hopeful before major campaigning commenced. He did spend a couple of days here and there following Howard Dean prior to him announcing that he was running but not 14 days. There is one photo on his site of Dean (under "faces") in a car mirror that was taken in 2003, although he has it captioned as if it was taken when he was the head of the DNC http://stevenfrischling.com/
H. International press pool? HA
I. States that during the "political season" that he would bounce back and forth between Iowa and New Hampshire. When the Iowa caucuses are going on in Dec./Jan., all the candidates are either in Iowa or New Hampshire. They do Iowa and then New Hampshire, that's the election cycle. There is no real back and forth. Besides, I doubt he has ever been to Iowa.
J. Again stating that he has spent weeks on the road with candidates – pure fiction.
K. Saying that he was a representative of an agency covering a campaign "trying to make unique images daily of the same person doing the same person every day" whatever that means.
L. Still thinks he has traveled in a pool.
M. Says his "boss" a.k.a. Susannah, is happy that he isn't gone on campaigns for weeks at a time anymore. There is no evidence to suggest that he has ever traveled with a candidate for any length of time other than 3 days on a bus.
N. Says that his "client" an agency owned by Bill Gates (better known as Corbis) paid for his campaign travel up front. That never happens. Travel is never billed upfront only after, sometimes weeks or even months after the fact.
O. Traveled with TWO candidates in the last stages of their campaign. If this was between 2000 and 2004, that would have to be Gore, Bush or Kerry. He wasn't traveling with Kerry and I have never seen a single photo of Gore or Bush during the 2000 election. He also says that he didn't get to know his subjects in any way, but earlier says that you can't be in a car for 14 days with a presidential candidate and not talk to him.
P. Establishes that he was on the Dean bus for three days, not weeks.
Q. Another mention of how heavily he covers politics but there is no photographic evidence to support this claim. It is safe to say that he has never experienced traveling with a candidate on a plane for weeks at a time, let alone once or twice.
R. Establishes that he was not "traveling" with Kerry on the final day of his campaign and there is no real evidence to support his claim that he has traveled with two presidential candidates on the final stages of their campaign unless he is referring to Ralph Nader who never really had a real presidential campaign.
S. This was in late 2005 when he was employed by CRN. There is no real reason why he would still have a valid US Senate pass or the extremely difficult to obtain Dept. of Defense pass. The DOD passes are almost always issued to journalists who cover the Pentagon FULL TIME. The U.N. pass, according to my boss, has to be renewed twice a year and requires a newspaper or wire service sponsor. The funniest thing is how he says he has about two-dozen old White House press passes from WH events on his lanyard. That is just retarded. First of all, has he actually covered 24 presidential events? Sure, it is possible, but if he has, it has been over his career and most of those passes would be about 10 years old. He covered Bush twice for Bloomberg since 2004. Second, why would anyone carry dozens of those around their neck like a trophy? That would be one huge mess of press passes to carry around. He'd look like a clown.
Once again we challenge Steven Frischling... Where are the photos to back up these stories?
Are you such a terrible incompetent photographer that you didn't get a single usable image?
Are you such a terrible incompetent photographer that you didn't get a single usable image?