A bit insiderish, what follows. But some points in this Boise kerfuffle about news reporting, access to government and advocacy are worth some consideration. So here goes.
One of the little-known organizations at the Idaho statehouse is the Capitol Correspondents Association. (Most states have counterpart associations, such as the Oregon Legislative Correspondents Association.) Apart from being an organization of professionals, a few other perks go along with it: Wearing a badge which allows the reporter (or photographer, or editor) access to certain places (such as chamber floors) and at times where other members of the public can't go, including a working room.
I was a member of this group years ago, when working for newspapers in Boise, Pocatello and Nampa. Eventually I concluded that while the idea of associating with peers was fine, the idea of special access was flawed - reporters should be able to go wherever the public can go, have what the public has, but no more (unless, let's space, it was room space paid for). To allow more puts these reporter in a special class, with special priveleges to be protected, and it skews their relationship with the legislators. In 2001 I covered the Idaho session for the Lewiston Tribune in a fashion similar to what they and I had been accustomed to in the past, declined to seek membership (which I have no doubt would have been granted), and found myself at no disadvantage at all in covering the session or delivering news stories. I've since recommended other reporters follow a similar path; I'm not aware of any who have. Perks, however minor, are hard to give up.
The question arising this week is somewhat different. It too will put me in a minority position. (more…)