Freedom of the Press? Equal Access? Not in Idaho’s State House


A few weeks ago I went to our State Capitol Building to see about acquiring capitol correspondent credentials or basically a press pass for the capitol, for the Gem State Patriot. I walked into the “Press Room” and there were several reporters busy typing on their computers. Betsy Russell saw me standing there and recognized me, introduced herself and asked what she could do to help. I told her it was my intention to obtain a Press Pass for the Gem State Patriot. She grabbed some papers that were pinned to a bulletin board and said, “These are the by-laws of the Capitol Correspondents Association.” Betsy said that she would examine our newsletter and see if we fit the parameters of the Correspondents Association. One of the other reporters took the time and made me a copy, and I was on my way thinking this will be a breeze.

THIS IS THE E-MAIL I RECEIVED LATER THAT EVENING

Hi, Bob:

The Standing Committee of the Capitol Correspondents Association met this afternoon and reviewed your request for capitol correspondent credentials. Based on the provision in our bylaws that says:

(1) For purposes of this Association, a “news organization” is not one that produces for or by an organization with membership requirements, or one that produces for or by an organization that exists to advocate, lobby or otherwise influence legislative, executive or judicial decisions.

and a review of your organization’s website and blog posts, the decision was unanimous not to grant credentials. The reason was that the overall focus appeared to be advocacy to influence legislation, calling on people to contact their legislators to oppose or support specific legislation, rather than just news reporting.

This is not in any way a value judgment on the journalism you perform; it’s just about the definitions required for capitol correspondents credentials. Although you’re not a registered lobbyist, the dictionary definition of lobbying references a group of people who work together to influence legislation.

I’m sorry we weren’t able to help with this. Thanks very much for coming by.

Betsy Russell, president, Idaho Capitol Correspondents Association

http://www.idahopressclub.org/capitol-correspondents-association/

Mind you I have called several leaders in the legislature and our Secretary of State all of whom read the Gem State Patriot, and not one of them could tell me where the authority came from that allowed the Capitol Correspondents Association to dictate who would be allowed to gain press credentials to our State Capital. I also did some checking and found out that the press room is one that is free of rent to anyone who has press credentials. Pardon me but who offered this room rent free to this cadre of liberal media in the first place? No one seemed to have an answer to that either. What I did find out is that the Idaho Freedom Foundation in the name of the Idaho Reporter had also applied for Press Credentials and we’re denied.

This association has been in existence since January 4, 1965 and has basically been run by the liberal media geeks who tell us that we are advocates and therefore can’t join their exclusive club. How many of you can remember a recent article where the Statesman or other liberal paper in Idaho has expressed an opinion or slanted a story to advocate for a particular issue. Surely Ms. Russell jests when she says that the people who are members of this club are non partisan because we all know that there is more liberally slanted news in Idaho than anyone would care to shake a stick at.

It’s not that the Gem State Patriot wants to lock some poor soul in that little press room filled with the liberal agenda media but we would like to have certain access to be able to do video and attend press conferences that the so called Capitol Correspondents are granted because they have press credentials. We feel that we do no more advocating than the Statesman or the Spokesman-Review. In fact there were many scathing liberal media articles during the election period focused on candidates to discredit them along with who knows how many paid for advertisements by politicians and lobbyists to advocate for their election.

We do not see the difference in what the liberal media newspapers and the Gem State Patriot or the Idaho Reporter print except that we have a much more conservative view. One thing we do not do is charge for political advertisements. We do all we can to bring the truth out in the public eye and give them the facts about important issues unlike Betsy Russell and her tribe of word twisting liberals. We don’t charge for our newsletter and basically live off of donations unlike the liberal news who not only charge you their paper, but give you slanted views in many cases along with advertisements from many of the lobbyists including IACI.

It makes one wonder why they want to maintain the status-quo at the Capitol Correspondents Association since if you don’t have credentials you kind of miss out on opportunities they are privy to because of their “Press Credentials” I’m sure that many of you will remember two weeks ago when the Press attacked Representative Vito Barbieri. They took his comments during a hearing on chemical abortion out of context and tried to make a fool out of one of our most conservative legislators. I’m sure that Ms. Russell was right there leading the charge on her Facebook account getting this out of context message to all the world which was an embarrassment not only one of our legislators but also our state. This is the problem when we don’t allow equal access by all members of the press. There is no counter to the liberal press and their antics. It’s high time that this method of giving press credentials was changed and equal access granted to all news organizations that have a readership base. Many Idahoans don’t read any of the liberal media and are also entitled to receive the news from an alternative source. It’s also high time that the members of this elite press group were made to pay for their space in the capital building just as the lobbyists are paying for their room. It appears that the only people who don’t have a room or free access are the ordinary citizens of Idaho.

I’m calling on our state legislators to change these rules to give alternative news organizations equal access to the State Capital and all of the advantages currently given to the “Capitol Correspondents Association” who have press credentials. To do anything less would be pure and simple discrimination by not allowing equal access. I also would ask you the public who read The Gem State Patriot or the Idaho Reporter to call your representatives and ask them why we have not been granted equal access.

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