Picture credit: Gage Skidmore
What motivates a political leader to freeze out journalism? In Harrisburg, the poverty-stricken capital of Pennsylvania, Mayor Eric Papenfuse has disallowed his spokeswoman from speaking with reporters for PennLive, the locations biggest news outlet, and prohibited PennLive press reporters from attending his weekly media briefings. The mayor says hes taking a stand against a news outlet that has become an illegitimate hellip; chatter blog site fishing for clicks and money. PennLive, on the other hand, states aggressive reporting on Papenfuses business and civic dealings resulted in the clampdown.
Weve seen the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, likewise banish news organizationswire service he dislikes over the past year, most recently The Washington Post, which joins The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Politico, amongst others. Papenfuse, a Democrat who states PennLive deals with the right, is no Trump worshipper. But given the ease with which a male running for the countrys highest workplace blacklists journalists, its worth asking whether this might become the brand-new typical in the areas and cities across the nation.
Papenfuse does not view his decision to blacklist PennLive in that light. Im very much committed to the freedom of the press, but I likewise think there are obligations that the media have, however [that] have actually also been entirely forgotten in the pursuit of gathering cash, which is what PennLive does, Papenfuse says. I see myself as ahead of the curve in standing and explaining this modification in media.
Something thats changed, he properly adds, is how the local outlets reporters are evaluated. PennLive takes pageviews into account when carrying out editorial staffers performance reviews, says Mike Feeley, content director of the website and its thrice-weekly print buddy, The Patriot-News, which are owned by Advance Resident. But he states the quality of reporters work, along with their dedication to enterprise reporting and video, carry more weight than the traffic their stories generate. Judging press reporters by clicks is troubling, but that metric doesn’t always forbid strong journalism in the general public interest. PennLives current stories on unpaid overtime at Papenfuses book shop and his ownership of buildings near a bar hes tryingattempting to close are great examples of regional accountability reporting.
The mayor states those stories didnt inspire his ban on PennLive. He states that in addition to traffic targets for press reporters, the sites protection is spoiled by a nasty, anonymous comment area, which the mayor suggests is also developed to drive traffic. Feeley doesn’t buy that. Papers have a business design of informing good stories, protecting the First Change, and holding their political leaders responsible to the general public, and simply due to the fact that were doing it in an electronic format now doesn’t alter our duty.
Does the cause of this wall of silence matter? Not actually. The fact remains that the leader of a significant protection area wont speak to the paper of record. Papenfuse runs the city, not the publication. Hes free to slam PennLives business practices, reporting, and journalists all he wantsand, yes, hes likewise complimentary to ignore them altogether. But this policy of silence denies the public of the full story. And the mayors move will also surely send a message to other news outlets: Don’t get on Papenfuses bad side, or you might be next.
Social media has actually made it simple for politicos to composecross out pesky members of the press. Trump virtually runs his campaign on Twitter, utilizing his 9 million followers to magnify his punchy, bombastic messages. And his social networks expertise eventually equatesequates to mainstream media protection. Papenfuse, a regular tweeter and Facebook user, says he considers to intensify his efforts to reach citizens where they live, probably utilizing social networks. Between both individual accounts and others connected to the city itself, he has a digital audience of nearly 14,000, minus any overlap. That corresponds to a good portion of Harrisburgs nearly 50,000 homeowners. Im a big believer in direct interaction, Papenfuse adds.
Trumps increase has actually foregrounded a population that has become hesitant of big organizations, consisting of news organizations. NumerousA lot of those people appear elated to cheer on a politician who sticks it to facility media. Restricting press access rarely operates in favor of politicians, says Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and a long time political reporter who now writes columns for the Louisville Courier-Journal. However this country harbors enough distrust of journalism to make you question if the phase isn’t already set for leaders to rapidly end up being more honestly dismissive of journalism.
Considering that Trump introduced his project, weve seen Tampas mayor block reporters from seeing his Twitter account. In April, a contender for Sacramentos mayoral office disallowed a press reporter for The Sacramento Bee from going to an election occasion. The month previously, authorities in White Castle, Louisiana, handcuffed a TELEVISION journalist who was looking into questions about the mayors salary and charged him with a misdemeanor. Thats a severe form of retribution for covering a vital local story.
Cold-shoulder policies have most likely existed as long as journalism, and their reach across Smalltown USA has actually beenand still isunclear. Its the exception to the rule, however it happens enough, states Cross.
Political leaders are like anybody else, because they admire and emulate the huge dogs in their business. Papenfuse might not mean to mirror Trump, but thats exactly what his PennLive strategy accomplishes, no matter his motivation. Time will tell if Trumps brazen disrespect for reporters flows down to others.
Jack Murtha is a CJR Delacorte Fellow. Follow him on Twitter at @JackMurtha
Tags: Advance, Donald Trump, press freedom