A Question of Open Access

by Melissa Brunner

I know some might think this is sour grapes from a member of the media who thinks they should be able to go anywhere at any time ((we don't really think in those extreme terms, by the way)), but a news release Friday really made me frustrated. Jeb Bush will be the guest speaker at the Kansas Chamber of Commerce annual dinner. But unless you buy a ticket, you won't get to hear for yourself what he says. Why? Because the news release notes this restriction: There are limitations for recording Gov. Bush's remarks: only the first 3 minutes and b roll with no audio is allowed. 

We asked about it. Yes, we can sit and listen to the speech and write what he says - which is great for a newspaper, but sort of defeats the purpose for television and radio.

It's frustrating to see speakers impose these types of restrictions. I get why organizations will abide by them - they want to get the most recognizable name they can to attract people to their event. The Kansas Chamber isn't the first organization to have this happen. When Sarah Palin spoke at the Salina Chamber's annual event in 2010, media couldn't record her comments. And the Dole Institute has had several guests with the same restriction, one I remember was Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner - we couldn't even get video of her - we had to use a still photo provided by KU University Relations.

I suppose one could argue these are private events (although the Dole Institute would be arguable on that one), but, by not allowing media to record their comments, it gives the appearance they have something to hide. If you're worried about your message being skewed, I'd say it's just as likely to happen in written word - perhaps even moreso because, at least with audio and video, you can "go back to the tape."

Maybe the news release just hit at the wrong time. A few days before that, one of our photographers had a legislative committee chairperson give him some trouble about where and what he could shoot in a hearing. When our news director contacted the House Speaker's office, we were told it is each committee chairperson's discretion how to handle media.

I understand not having free run of events because you don't want to interfere with others in attendance. But what would you consider reasonable restrictions? Or do you not have a problem with any restrictions people want to have in place?



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