Walker and the non-press of the public's business | WisCommunity

Walker and the non-press of the public's business

In the confusion surrounding the Walker administration's continuing efforts since Monday to lock anti-Walker citizens out of the Capitol -- especially for the mini-governator's budget address Tuesday -- one fact has largely been ignored by some of the very people who were most affected by it: The news media.

For, in turning way protesters, the administration's makeshift doorway security force -- cobbled together from borrowed law enforcement personnel from localities across the state -- also turned away some members of the working press, despite a Dane County judge's issuance of a restraining order against the Walker administration's move to lock down the Capitol building, erecting more elaborate fences and counting heads and limiting public entrances to one, which somehow didn't prevent Gov. Scotty's own legions from attending his address in force.

Now, of course, some reporters did get inside and entities like WisconsinEye did provide video. So it was nothing like a complete news blackout. Of course not. Gov. Scotty wanted the public to see his calm, bold, stirring speech in front of a placid, applauding audience in sumptuous legislative chambers. But for some reporters, it was the equivalent of a Nixonian-like news blackout (gee, we thought Gov. Scotty was channeling Ronald Reagan, not Richard Nixon).

Consider Milwaukee CBS affiliate WDJT-TV, which sent reporter Eric Rucker to cover the governor's address for the stations' 10 p.m. Tuesday newscast. First Rucker interviewed and reported on protesters who were turned away from attending. He noted that a few were nevertheless allowed in, with a few of those subsequently ejected for allegedly violating rules of decorum. Then, standing outside the Capitol in the dark after interviewing the protesters, he added this:

They're not the only ones not allowed inside. Members of the media trying to get into the Capitol today were also turned away. We were told that we needed certain credentials, credentials that [state officials apparently told the reporters they had needed to apply for] yesterday and, B., credentials that we never needed in the two weeks that we have been covering what has been going on here at the Capitol.

One perhaps could argue that Channel 58 News and other news organizations kept from entering the people's building had simply dropped the ball and failed to obtain "certain credentials." However, preventing already accredited, known news organizations from covering an important public event in a public building of interest to all state residents, when there's plenty of room for them, ought to raise some eyebrows in the Fourth Estate. It's not unlike Gov. Scotty jamming authoritarian decision-making powers for himself into the bowels of 142-page bills that are blitzkrieged through the legislature. You're not really supposed to be noticing that stuff; you're supposed to be noticing Gov. Scotty.

Perhaps the Walker administration will pursue the argument in court that uncredentialed reporters constitute some kind of security threat in the Capitol. Then again, if, as Governor Scotty and the GOP insists, voters need special ID to get into polling places, why shouldn't reporters need special ID to get into public buildings? Well, here's one reason: The First Amendment.

But here's another idea for our beseiged governor: Why not let all the press in, but insist that you get to see how they edit their stories, and impose changes as you see fit? Just asking.

Take a look at Channel 58's news story here:



March 2, 2011 - 9:48am