Politicians Picking the Press
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Concord Monitor reporter Annmarie Timmins posts video of her being left outside during an invitation only media briefing held by House Speaker Bill O’Brien.
Josh McElveen of WMUR tweets that sources tell him the Monitor’s recent editorial cartoon depicting O’Brien with a Hitler mustache is to blame. This incident runs through a whole bunch of issues concerning government and journalism.
First, there is no Constitutional right to attend a press briefing. Politicians can and do choose where and how to share information with the press and the public. But just because there’s no First Amendment violation at issue doesn’t mean that letting politicians pick their own press corps is a good idea.
Elected officials don’t have to make themselves available to reporters from papers that attack them anymore than they have to go on radio shows with hosts they dislike or distrust. But walling themselves off from the press, particularly publicly, is short-sighted and counter-productive. Instead of stories about tightening EBT cards under New Hampshire’s welfare program, O’Brien gets a news cycle about his refusal to face a reporter.
We’ve been consistent at NH Watchdog is pointing out the futility of such tactics. Whether it was Juan Williams bungled attempt to dismiss Michelle Malkin as a blogger, not a real reporter, Governor John Lynch’s Press Secretary kicking me out of a budget briefing because NH Watchdog “wasn’t part of the media” or Senate President Sylvia Larsen kicking NH Watchdog off the floor of the New Hampshire Senate.
Journalism is an activity, not a club, and you don’t need a license to practice it. Reporters should be judged by the quality, and most importantly the truth, of their stories. We’ll stack up our work over the past four years against any reporter in New Hampshire. Regardless of their editorial views, or the questionable cartoon that I criticized when it was published, the Concord Monitor also devotes a lot of time and attention to covering state policy. Excluding its reporters was pointless.
I don’t begrudge the Monitor calling attention to this slight. I certainly wasn’t shy to point out every time a politicians tried to shut me out. I hope the New Hampshire politicos of all stripes stand up for a vibrant and independent press corps.
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