The ongoing squabble over access to the floor for media – partsian alternative media as well as the traditional kind – has been an ongoing battle at the State Capitol for a few years now.
The rhubarb flared up again as the session started earlier month, as left-leaning group-blog “The Uptake” was denied “floor credentials”.
Now, “floor credentials” aren’t the beginning and end of capitol journalism. David Brauer notes:
While credentials aren’t needed for Capitol press conferences, floor passes are about access. Conversations are only permitted before or after a day’s session, but the immediacy of interviews before lawmakers scatter is as valuable, as is the candor that occasionally results before marching orders are received.
It’s not the be-all of reportage: Senate Sgt-at-Arms Sven Lindquist says press seats on the cramped floor are frequently unoccupied, except during big votes. Still, it’s a tool for the journalistic toolbox.
And it’s a tool that pretty much everyone wants – just in case. Including The Uptake.
Now, the power to grant credentials, as Brauer notes, used to be a non-partisan activity:
Sgt-at-arms Lindquist says the power to review and grant credentials used to be handled by himself and Senate Secretary Patrick Flahaven. But in recent years, Lindquist says the power moved “elsewhere” — to the majority leader’s office, which is, by definition, partisan.
It’s obviously an issue needing some resolution. Which is where this piece starts.
Earlier this month, a source close to the GOP’s caucus leadership told me that, while (as Brauer notes) the rules don’t bar “partisan” media, the decision was made to deny credentials to all partisan media, pending the development of a policy.
A few weeks ago, Michael Brodkorb – who handles communications for the majority GOP caucus in the Minnesota Senate, in addition to being the deputy chair of the Minnesota GOP – called me to ask if I’d be interested in working with a group of DFL and GOP staffers, as well as MinnPost writer David Brauer, on coming up with a more or less comprehensive policy on granting floor credentials.
Every state has a different solution to the issue – ranging from free access to the floor to credentialed media in Rhode Island and Montana (and credentials are pretty much given for the asking) to Illinois, which requires a vote of the applicable chamber to allow the media to take pictures, much less get on the floor.
The goal – near as I can tell so far – is to come up with a transparent policy that’ll give fair access to the Senate floor to media organizations, while coming up with some sort of balance between the establishment media’s vocational need for access and the alt-media’s right to a place at the proverbial table.
I’m honored to have been asked. My goal is to try to help this group come up with a policy that fairly and transparently gives all media a fair, clear means to cover our Senate, for the good of the entire electorate.
I’ll keep you all posted. Because even if I didn’t, Brauer certainly would.