Yesterday I received word that Liberadio(!) is going to have its Capitol Hill press pass revoked (or, as they put it out there on the grapevine, can she please just stop using it and quietly go away?). The reason, AP writer and newly minted (Rick Locker of the Commercial Appeal held the position until this month) Capitol Hill press corp manager Erik Schelzig told my source, is because “some of the guys” in the press corp complained that I was tainting the corp’s non-partisan and impartial reputation with my partisan ways.
I was the host of a liberal talk radio show when I was originally issued the pass last year. I was the host of a liberal talk radio show when I used the pass all during last session. And I was the host of a liberal talk radio show when they issued me a new pass for 2010 a couple of weeks ago.
So what’s changed?
According to my sources, Erik said that I am a paid employee of the Tennessee Democratic Party (TNDP). Truth is, the TNDP paid the media company that I own with Freddie a $500.00 per month fee for services from September until December 2009. But I guess our business isn’t allowed to have separate departments like the traditional media are allowed to have – especially when our business never claimed impartiality in the first place.
So the other question is, who’s really behind the revocation of my press pass?
I don’t know. And, frankly, it doesn’t matter. Because the only place I can’t go without one is the press box in the House and Senate chamber.
Ordinary citizens have access – for obvious reasons – to the State Capitol, Legislative Plaza, committee rooms, and the House and Senate gallery, and I will continue to take advantage of that access as much as I can. I hope you do too.
“Mary is not alone. Veteran Capitol reporter Sherman Novoson has also been denied a press pass. So have I even though I see print every week in five reputable newspapers in Nashville in addition to my daily blog. Big city newspapers (plus their AP news service) want to corral coverage at the Capitol. They haven’t caught on to the new media so they don’t want anyone else using it either.”
“This move by the Capitol Hill press corps raises interesting questions in the wake of the latest United States Supreme Court decision on campaign finance law. The majority ruling allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of political money advocating the election or defeat of candidates or to fund issue ads.
Many outlets represented by the Capitol Hill press corps will certainly receive far more in political checks per month than Liberadio(!).”
Okay, since my name was called (in Mary’s original posting on her website), I feel a need to respond:
Mary, Mary, Mary:
1. If you can’t see the issue in getting paid by a political party and having a Legislative Plaza press pass to cover a political body, nothing I can say can help. It’s self-evident.
2. As you correctly noted, it really doesn’t matter. There are exactly 2 places that pass will take you that any citizen can’t automatically go: the floors of the House and Senate chambers. And as you well know, that doesn’t do much to deter news coverage of the legislature. Of course, the legislature has the ultimate say about who it allows on the floors.
3. Erik, the new press corps chairman, hasn’t done anything beyond asking your friend, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, if it’s true that you are or were being paid by the TnDP. I would have done the same if I had heard that when I was still the chair.
and addresses Dru’s hypothesis:
“And Dru, I’m a little surprised at your post. It’s not an “MSM” v. “New Media” thing at all. (Ask the two reporters for the new TNReport.com, who are now here daily, WITH passes.) When Erik learned this week that the Office of Legislative Administration was denying the LP press passes to any media organization that doesn’t rent space in the LP press room, he immediately opened a discussion with them about how that’s a departure from past policy and why it should not be. The TVs, for example, don’t rent cubes in the press room but clearly they should have them. As should YOU.”
UPDATE IV: There’s a “lively” discussion going on over at Post Politics and here’s my latest two cents: I think it’s great that in the age of Fox News, who have several press passes that they use to cover national politics and gain access to the White House press room, the Capitol Hill press corps in Tennessee thinks about issues of non-partisanship and impartiality and takes them seriously.
Would I have liked to be approached personally? Obviously.
Do I fault them for a decision/recommendation they have either made or will make in the near future about my access? Not really. But there is a deeper discussion and some serious introspection that needs to take place about the blurry line between partisan dollars and the news those dollars may or may not influence.
Just saying, my having a press pass is the least of any media critics worries/concerns. But I guess reform has to start somewhere so let reform start with me!