Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Without argument, a free press is essential to maintaining liberty and democracy. It’s so important, it is included in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
A free press should also be a transparent and honest press.
Yesterday, a Policy Watch reporter was escorted out of the annual NCBCE meeting. An invitation went out, citing ‘credentialed’ press only.
I happened to also receive this invite in my email. Would I have been escorted out? According to the News and Observer, yes, I would have:
A spokesman for McCrory, Josh Ellis, said N.C. Policy Watch is not credentialed by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, the North Carolina Press Association, the Capitol Press Corps or members of a widely-recognized media cooperative such as the Associated Press.
The event, held at PNC Arena, was for the committee members and open to credentialed press. The meeting is not considered a public meeting under state law.
News and Observer has an interesting article on this turn of events, here’s an excerpt with emphasis added:
N.C. Policy Watch, which maintains a Web site, describes itself as having a “guiding objective” of bringing about “social, political and economic justice in North Carolina.”
“Since its founding in 2004,” the group says on its site, “NC Policy Watch has established itself as the state’s most prolific and influential progressive voice and a direct and effective counterpoint to the state’s conservative think tanks.”
Its director, Chris Fitzsimon, is a frequent critic of the McCrory administration.
Lindsay Wagner, who covers education issues for Policy Watch, wrote in an online post, which included audio of what happened, that she was escorted from the business committee meeting with little explanation just as it began at the PNC Arena. Arena security asked her to leave at the direction of the governor’s office.
The article goes on to say that Twitter users criticized this action by the McCrory administration. I myself re-tweeted many of these objections. I personally don’t believe any form of press should be kept out of a public event where our elected officials are speaking.
Having said that, the News and Observer article has a glaring omission or two.
Policy Watch is an endeavor of the NC Justice Center.
The NC Justice Center is the parent of Blueprint NC.
Blueprint NC had an attack memo leaked to ‘the press’ in 2013, which detailed a campaign to ‘cripple, eviscerate’, pressure and slam‘ Governor McCrory at every possible opportunity.
Blueprint NC’s network includes every Left leaning organization you can think of.
Chris Fitzsimon was on Blueprint NC’s original board, according to the organizations 2010 filings at the NC Secretary of State. Funny how he’s quoted by News and Observer, ‘slamming’ the Governor, huh?
Should they have allowed Ms. Wagner into this event, especially seeing as she received an invitation? Definitely Yes.
But perhaps the reservations of this administration regarding Ms. Wagner’s parent group’s activities should also be considered?