Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Idiots Should Have Known Better--And Freedom Is Lucky Only To Have A Near Miss

Six weeks ago I wrote about how the Alabama legislature, run by Republicans, was planning on credentialing only the "institutional press" to cover their proceedings.  Defining who is and isn't a journalist is not a conservative concept and, well, they tried to do it anyway, and did a darn poor job of it:
Here's Alabama's proposed official press credential policy...

Notice how much emphasis is placed on being paid and working for incumbent media outlets. This wording gives incumbent media preference over upstarts and quite possibly means those whose platforms aren't instantly recognizable by legislators will be deemed "non-press" and denied access.

Also notice how much information journalists will need to provide in exchange for a press pass. If you want to cover the Alabama legislature, you'll need to prove that you're a salaried employee of one of the entities on the "approved" list. Maybe something on official letterhead will be good enough for the legislature. Or maybe it's suggesting you bring a pay stub or two with you and a portfolio of your work (... and financial statements verifying your employer has subscribers, still in business, etc...). And God forbid you hold a part-time job with any "person, firm, corporation or association" that "attempts to influence legislative issues," but still attempt to "certify" that you have no connection to myriad entities listed in the "forbidden connections" section. You can kiss your credentials goodbye. And this part of the list about forbidden connections -- "or political party" -- suggests journalists are better off not registering to vote.

Beyond that, there's the weird stipulation that those receiving press credentials will need to be "engaged primarily in reporting the sessions of the legislature. (And be able to prove it.)
Anyone see any potential problems, any possible ways to abuse such a system? Fortunately, the disinfecting powers of sunlight brought enough of those legislators from both parties to their senses, according to this leftie web site:
Update 1/14/2015: The Alabama Legislature "declined" to change the rules for journalists yesterday, with senators from both parties objecting & warning of possible unintended consequences. Amazing how the bright light of media attention helps to bring sanity to the chamber!
Freedom of the press dodged a bullet last week.  And I'll celebrate this win along with that crazy leftie blogger!

This blog?  This blog is the press spoken of in the Constitution, along with the institutional press.


maxutils said...

I naturally support this decision, being an unequivocal proponent of free speech and free press…but, at the same time? Given technology today, anyone with a computer and a blog can wall themselves a journalist, and you can obviously not grant infinitely many press credentials -- so I don't know what the solution is. My guesses would be, randomize them, and/or offer live video feed for anyone who wanted to show up -- but yes, when you put in special rules for established groups, your credibility is gone. Good for Alabama.

PeggyU said...

This kind of crap goes on in so many ways and at so many levels it is frightening. Here's a "for example":

In our county there is an (state mandated) attempt to quantify water availability and demand. A lot hinges on the outcome of this effort. Caucuses composed of citizens and special interest groups meet to accomplish this goal. The idea behind it is commendable - that water belongs to everyone and all should have representation when it comes to decisions regarding a vital resource. Unfortunately local officials and government entities who are supposed to be acting merely in a support capacity have attempted to shanghai the process to serve their own interests. For example, the law which created the watershed planning unit (the assembly of caucuses) requires that the county government "facilitate" the meetings. The county, which is apparently not keen on recognizing an authoritative citizen body, at first dragged their feet and now is finally hiring a facilitator. Essentially all that is needed is a clerk to record the meetings, post upcoming agendas, and create documents for the meetings. However, the job description for this post has been made so specific and restrictive that there is only one consulting firm in town which meets the hiring criteria. This firm has a long-standing history of lucrative local government contracts. I'm not sure what the consultant's personal connection is, but this job - which should be open to so many more bidders - is for all intents and purposes tailored to exclude all but this contractor. The appearance is that the county wants to "facilitate" a bit too much. The county needs to be called out for this abuse of their role. Our county executive is nominally a Republican; for the life of me I can't find any common ground with this guy, though. Opportunists gravitate to public office and will assume whatever labels seem the most useful for their careers. I think it's good to remember that and to know that people of integrity may also belong to any party. I'd rather support a liberal who is sincere in his values than someone who is conveniently "conservative" . At least the person with integrity is a known quantity and can be expected to behave according to his principles.