Excluding online media
November 11, 2008 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Can a senator's press conference, declared "open to the media," exclude a member of the online media (who happens to be an SPJ member) because they do not consider him to represent a legitimate member of the press?
posted by Astro Zombie to Law & Government (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Absolutely. Open to the media just means "open to who we, the organisers, consider the media to be". Except in a few legal situations (FoI, mainly), there's no right to access. Unless you're asking if this is one of those...
posted by bonaldi at 12:35 PM on November 11, 2008

Response by poster: Nope. Just a press conference.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:39 PM on November 11, 2008

It sounds like there is more to this story. More details would help.

2 questions:

By "online media," do you mean Slate.com or your own political blog?

And does SPJ membership = journalist, or does it mean that you've paid your dues for the year?
posted by BobbyVan at 12:54 PM on November 11, 2008

BobbyVan's two questions are meaningless.

All that matters is that "open to the media" has no legal meaning, nor does the word "journalist" in this context.

It is perfectly reasonable for an elected official to exclude certain members of the media from an event. After all, any schmuck with a blog can claim to be a "citizen journalist" and apply for a press pass nowadays. Why should the dime-a-dozen bloggers take up all the seats and eat all the concessions?

It is also perfectly reasonable for said dime-a-dozen blogger, or excluded media-elite, to bitch, moan, raise hell, talk shit, complain, and generally call attention to this perceived outrage via his media outlet.
posted by wfrgms at 1:06 PM on November 11, 2008

When asking these "can they do this?" questions, one has to look to see (1) whether or not there is a rule stating that it can be done and (2) what enforcement mechanism exists to enforce such a rule or law.

Here the answer is (1) there is no law: and (2) nobody to enforce that law.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:07 PM on November 11, 2008

Sure. Freedom of association, etc.

And he excluded journalist is free to write a scathing hell-raising article decrying his exclusion.
posted by orthogonality at 1:24 PM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sure, they do this to those whack-jobs at wnd all the time.
posted by Oktober at 1:44 PM on November 11, 2008

As everyone has pointed out, this is not a question of "rights" or law.

I have exchanged with bloggers and journalists on this topic: there is a difference between the ability to work as a journalist and the job of a journalist working for a news media. The former represents one person, the latter a company whose business is news. The former is nobody, the latter reaches and audience. If you want to be accepted as a news media, it can be done if you can show them (in advance) that you have an audience. As any new news media on the block, you introduce yourself, you present your readership (stats), and if it is possible you produce a certified measure of your readership.

It has nothing to do with being online or not, with being a journalist or not: it's just a question of proving that you do reach an audience. If this audience is part of the audience they are trying to reach, you'll be invited all the time.
posted by bru at 1:51 PM on November 11, 2008

The press never has any right of access. Access is always a privilege, revocable at any time.

In October, the Obama campaign booted several major reporters off the official campaign jet, because their publications had said nasty things about Obama. Petty? Of course.

Legal? You bet your ass it's legal. The only recourse those reporters had was to write more nasty stories about it -- which some of them did.
posted by Class Goat at 2:09 PM on November 11, 2008

My former colleagues at CBS 3 news (a CBS O&O, by the way) were banned from Obama access after this embarrassing Biden "interview" a few weeks ago.

No need for further complaints, however. The news director and station mgr. are toast anyway if (and when) the Nov. book is disappointing.
posted by Zambrano at 2:54 PM on November 11, 2008

Agreeing that the press has no special rights to access. In fact, the press has no special rights at all- the press merely uses their regular old constitutional rights of free speech.

The only reason people allow the press access is that the press is a conduit to the public, and those people want the public to hear what they have to say. To allow access to certain members of the press and not others simply means that they view those non-allowed people as not important. The remedy for said press person is to engage in their free speech and tell their story.
posted by gjc at 5:05 PM on November 11, 2008

Yes, he is permitted to exclude them.

Also, I know what you're talking about, and said senator is a complete tool. I wouldn't say that he necessarily views them as "non-important" so much as "inclined to be unsympathetic."

So this is a perfectly legal dick maneuver.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:13 PM on November 11, 2008

They can exclude you, although they might still admit Jeff Gannon.
posted by neuron at 8:46 PM on November 11, 2008

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