Liberadio(!) Capitol Hill Press Pass Revoked

CensorshipYesterday 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 haveespecially 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.

UPDATE: Dru Fuller Smith reporter and producer of Dru’s Views adds to the discussion over at Post Politics:

“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.”

Update II: Christian of Nashville is Talking has this timely take on the situation:

“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(!).”

UPDATE III: Rick Locker of the Memphis Commercial Appeal responds to me:

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.

Rick Locker

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, 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!

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21 Responses to “Liberadio(!) Capitol Hill Press Pass Revoked”

  1. Dean says:

    The House and Senate clerks aren’t involved with making policy. They should be able to handle a request like this in the time it takes me to write this note.

  2. John says:

    Don’t you think they would be more worried about Jobs in TN—This is the problem—They get side-tracked on issues that don’t pertain to most tennesseans

  3. Elmer Gantry says:

    Someone at the Capitol has to give the Press Corp(s) permission to be there…I would start with either the House Clerk or Senate Clerk:

    Office of the Chief Clerk (House)
    State Capitol, 2nd Floor
    Nashville, TN 37243
    Phone (615) 741-2901

    Sergeants At Arms (House)
    19 Legislative Plaza
    Nashville, TN 37243-0104
    Phone (615) 741-7450

    Office of the Chief Clerk (Senate)
    State Capitol, 2nd Floor
    Nashville, TN 37243
    Phone (615) 741-2730

    Sergeants At Arms (Senate)
    1 Legislative Plaza
    Nashville, TN 37243
    Phone (615) 741-4524

  4. Dean says:

    I would imagine that’s public record, correct?

  5. Christian says:

    Elmer, I’d like to see that list, too.

  6. Elmer Gantry says:

    Could Liberadio please identify and list here every current “bona fide” (to borrow a phrase currently in vogue with the Tennessee Republican Party) member/media employer of the Captiol Hill press corps…?

  7. Elmer Gantry says:

    And by the same reasonng attributed to Capitol Hill press corp manager Erik Schelzig, reporters, freelancers, and news agencies working for or selling their services to any Tennessee newspaper or broadcast news outlet selling political advertising to any candidate for any state political office must tainted in a similar fashion…

    So when does Erik Schelzig plan to resign as the Capitol Hill press corp manager and close shop to all reporters at the Tennessee state capitol?

    What rubbish – you must have really pissed off Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey with some recent Liberadio comments about his 2010 abortion straw man arguments.

  8. Radiohead says:

    I know of one local radio host who receives ample financial support from a political party.

    It’s not direct money, but the GOP has paid businesses to advertise on the show. Rumor has it this is part of the reason the Tennessean kiled the column.

  9. DonnaC says:

    Ok, ask it this way, is there any radio host in America that is funded by the local state Democrat Party?

    You have a disclosure issue you need to deal with.

  10. Mary Mancini says:

    Donna C, why don’t you do some research on corporate media ownership and then get back to me about that El Rushbo question.

  11. DonnaC says:

    Does Rush Limbaugh get paid by the GOP? Seems like you have charted new ground here.

  12. Mary Mancini says:

    Don’t know, Andy. Steve usually shows up on the first day with the other tourists and then you don’t see him for the rest of session.

  13. Andy Axel says:

    Hm. Wonder if Steve Gill holds a Capitol Hill press pass.

  14. Mary Mancini says:

    As for the State Democratic Party, I don’t need them to come to my defense. But it would have been nice if Erik the AP dude had delivered the message in person.

  15. Mary Mancini says:

    Hey, WC, I guess the same person who manages the press corp and decides who has access to a pass is the same person who makes the decision to take them away.

    It’s Erik Shelzig of AP, as of this month. But I don’t know for sure as Erik never contacted me personally – he asked someone else who he knows is a friend of mine to contact me.

  16. Mary Mancini says:

    Sorry, Donna, but when you’re out there with the Democrats fighting for every Tennessean to have one good job so that they don’t have to work three jobs just to support their family, you get a little passionate. But I guess that’s something you wouldn’t understand.

  17. [...] Mary Mancini wrote this morning that her Capitol Hill press pass has been revoked. Mancini, who many know is active in the Tennessee Democratic Party, said being paid by the state [...]

  18. WhitesCreek says:

    One…Who gets to make this decision?

    Two…Why aren’t the state Democrats screaming about this?

  19. WhitesCreek says:

    Huh?…Non partisan like the Knoxville News Sentinel and Fox News?

  20. DonnaC says:

    Gosh Mary, maybe a little too shrill? It’s a credibility thing you wouldn’t understand.

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