A story in Politico caught my eye because of the familiar ring. Reporters covering the House Democrats’ retreat in Philadelphia complained about their tight rein.
[quote]“It was a police state. It was absurd how heavy handed the capitol police and Democratic staff were in trying to control everywhere the press went,” New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters said in an interview.[/quote]
It’s not uncommon. I recalled my astonishment when, not long ago while covering a Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) conference in a public federal building for CBS News, I was escorted to the bathroom each time I needed to visit it throughout the course of the day. Once there, the government minder did not leave me to my own devices, but stood outside the bathroom door to escort me back. Meantime, non-press attendees–government employees and academics –were allowed to go to the bathroom unencumbered.
The federal government is increasingly invasive when it comes to reporters doing their jobs. In the past, I have been allowed to receive background briefings from federal officials, one-on-one. But I can’t remember the last time I received information directly from a federal official without a press minder from the public affairs office listening in as a requirement, occasionally interrupting or ending answers to questions that apparently were not headed in the right direction.
In the instance of the Democrats’ retreat, the New York Times’ Peters told Politico: “he was told by a staffer they were being escorted to prevent them from talking to members of Congress.”
It should be concerning to all when government officials increasingly separate themselves from exposure to the public they serve and the press that is supposed to help hold them accountable.
Read the entire Politico article below.