Journalism groups ask administration for meeting | Center for Scholastic Journalism | Kent State University

Journalism groups ask administration for meeting

SPJ leads effort to encourage openness

 

The Society of Professional Journalists and 60 other journalism organizations including the Center for Scholastic Journalism have requested a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence to discuss access to government.

The coalition sent a letter today to Trump and Pence, asking for a meeting or conference call to discuss:

  • the ability of reporters to directly interact with government employees who are subject matter experts, rather than interacting with Public Information Officers (or having all conversations monitored by Public Information Officers);
  • access to the activities of the President;
  • and ensuring that the Federal Freedom of Information Act remains as strong as possible.

“We believe strongly that journalists are the eyes and ears of the citizens of the United States,” said SPJ National President Lynn Walsh. “The average American citizen does not have the time or resources to check up on elected officials to make sure they are running the country the way they should. It is up to journalists to help hold those in power accountable.”

This letter is the latest among several that were sent to the Obama administration, since at least 2013, regarding concerns about White House restrictions on photographers, transparency and public information officer restrictions.

The first letter, sent Nov. 21, 2013, addressed concerns regarding White House restrictions on photographers. The next letter, sent July 8, 2014, and a follow-up letter sent Aug. 5, 2014, regarding PIO and transparency issues were met with a response from the White House on Aug. 11, 2014, that the groups found unsatisfactory. This white paper and other articles also provide background on the issue.

“We urge you to publicly affirm your commitment to transparency, to issue an executive order prohibiting the restrictive public information policies that have been the status quo, and to engage in a public discussion with us about the Trump administration’s commitment to the free flow of information from the White House and all federal government, to the American people,” the latest letter states.

The groups hope that together, they and the Trump administration can improve the lines of communication between the White House and the press. 

The text of the letter: 

President-elect Donald Trump
Vice President-elect Mike Pence
Presidential Transition Headquarters
1800 F St., NW, Room G117
Washington, D.C. 20270-0117 

January, 18, 2017 

Dear Mr. President-elect and Mr. Vice President-elect, 

In December 2015, a delegation representing more than 50 journalism and open government organizations met with Josh Earnest, President Obama’s press secretary, urging greater openness and transparency from the federal government. 

The group shared its concerns to Earnest and his staff regarding the administration’s communications policies, including: 

  •  officials blocking reporters’ requests to talk to specific staff people; 
  •  excessive delays in answering interview requests that stretch past reporters’ deadlines; 
  •  officials conveying information “on background,” refusing to give reporters what should be public information unless they agree not to say who is speaking; 
  •  federal agencies blackballing reporters who write critically of them; 
  •  and other policies that prevent information from flowing to the public. 

Since that meeting, however, little has been done to improve these issues. 

Our Founding Fathers knew the importance of a press that is free to report on the activities of our government and elected officials. “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost,” said Thomas Jefferson in a January 28, 1786, letter. Yet here we are, almost exactly 231 years after Jefferson wrote those words, and attempts to stifle the flow of information to citizens of the United States continue. 

But 2017 is a new year, and you are at the helm of a new administration. We would like to pick up where we left off with the Obama Administration and continue the discussion regarding issues relevant to freedom of the press. 

Most important on that list are: 

  •  the ability of reporters to directly interact with government employees who are subject matter experts, rather than interacting with Public Information Officers (or having all conversations monitored by PIOs); 
  •  access to the activities of the President; 
  •  and ensuring that the Federal Freedom of Information Act remains as strong as possible. 

In addition, we would like to have a conversation regarding how we can work together to ensure that self-government as outlined by the Constitution survives and flourishes, and that a free press remains a cornerstone of our nation and our liberty. 

Information-control practices have gone too far and must be curtailed for the good of our democracy and reputation in the world. You can act now, as you begin your term, to shift the federal government away from secrecy toward transparency and accountability. 

Here are links to some of the letters sent to President Obama: The first letter, sent Nov. 21, 2013, addressed concerns regarding White House restrictions on photographers. The next letter, sent July 8, 2014, and a follow-up letter sent Aug. 5, 2014, regarding PIO and transparency issues were met with a response from the White House on Aug. 11, 2014, that the groups found unsatisfactory. This white paper and other articles also provide background on the issue. 

We urge you to publicly affirm your commitment to transparency, to issue an executive order prohibiting the restrictive public information policies that have been the status quo, and to engage in a public discussion with us about the Trump Administration’s commitment to the free flow of information from the White House and all federal government, to the American people. 

We would be happy to send a delegation to Washington, D.C., to have this discussion, or we invite Mr. Pence to meet with us the next time he is back in his hometown, which is also home of the Society of Professional Journalists’ national headquarters. We are also open to a video conference call as well. 

It is the hope of the thousands of members of the 61 organizations below that together, we can work to improve the lines of communication between the White House and the press. Democracy depends on it. 

Sincerely, 

Alaska Press Club 

American Copy Editors Society 

American Society of Business Publication Editors 

American Society of Media Photographers 

American Society of News Editors 

Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association 

Asian American Journalists Association 

Associated Press Media Editors 

Associated Press Photo Managers 

Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication 

Association of Alternative News Media 

Association of Health Care Journalists 

Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication 

Broadcast Education Association 

Center for Scholastic Journalism 

College Media Association 

Colorado Press Women 

Defending Rights & Dissent 

Education Writers Association 

Florida Press Association 

Hoosier State Press Association 

Investigative Reporters and Editors 

iSolon 

Journalism and Women Symposium 

Journalism Education Association 

Local Independent Online News Producers 

Local Media Association 

Michigan Press Association 

Media of Nebraska Inc. 

National Association of Black Journalists 

National Association of Hispanic Journalists 

National Association of Science Writers 

National Newspaper Association 

National Press Photographers Association 

National Scholastic Press Association/Associated Collegiate Press 

National Writers Union 

Native American Journalists Association 

Nebraska Press Association 

Nevada Press Association 

New Jersey Press Association 

News Media Alliance 

News Media Coalition 

News Media Guild Local 31222 

NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists 

North American Agricultural Journalists 

Online News Association 

Poynter 

Radio Television Digital News Association 

Religion News Association 

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press 

Reporters Without Borders 

Society of Environmental Journalists 

Society of Professional Journalists 

South Carolina Press Association 

South Dakota Newspaper Association 

Student Press Law Center 

The NewsGuild-CWA 

The NewsGuild of New York 

Tully Center for Free Speech 

United Media Guild – TNG-CWA 

UNITY Journalists for Diversity

POSTED: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 2:56pm
UPDATED: Monday, January 30, 2017 - 11:14am
WRITTEN BY:
Mark Goodman