Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First Amendment Right v. A Candidates Right to Choose

The First Amendment Right of the fourth estate is freedom of the press. Included in that concept is that the press should have free access to all political events, documents, and political activities. Now the problem becomes the candidates deciding who is or is not considered press.

The President of the United States recognized in his first race for his seat in the Oval office that bloggers are indeed press. If someone has been blogging for a valid length of time and is covering political events, candidates, and political issues then they should be given all the rights and privileges of a news media reporter.

The precedent set by allowing the candidates to pick and choose which reporters they wish to cover their events based on where the reporter is getting their funding to publish those reports is wrong in just too many ways for us to cover. The path that leads to state controlled media is started with this behavior.

More and more reporters are moving to online formats as the major newspapers and magazines move to such a format. The New York Times announced just recently that they would be moving to an online format in the near future. These news media services may not hire a reporter but simply pay reporters on a story by story basis. Some reporters are opting to self-publish in order to maintain their own control of what they decide is news worthy and what is not news worthy.

Trip Jennings calls us his tribe because we at one time or another have all worked in the roundhouse media room. I got put on the spot by Trip my first time in that room. This tribe has been trained in how to remain professional while asking difficult questions of public individuals. Those public individuals may not always like the type of questions we ask them. We often put them on the spot about their weaknesses.

The voting public deserves to know the truth. They expect us to get our stories right or to retract our statements. We are held to a higher standard of telling the truth and reporting the facts as honestly as we can. Are their reporters who color their stories? Yes, of course there are individuals who cross the line but they are few and far between. Reporters are human and can at times be misled.

No candidate, no matter how powerful or public should be allowed to exclude a member of the press from their media events. Candidates should not be allowed to decide who is nor is not a reporter. We will make that call among ourselves thank you. It takes time and hard work to build a reputation as a political reporter and we guard that reputation carefully in order to be accepted among our peers.

We also work hard to build solid relationships with candidates knowing full well that at some point we many have the difficult task of reporting something that they don’t want made public. It is a fine line we walk and often a difficult one. It is not unknown for personal private relationships to develop between candidates and reporters. Earlier this year we had a news agency report that a reporter had been seen acting a little too friendly to a candidate. She point out to the other reporter that if he had done his homework then he would have known that she was married to that candidate.