From a blog posting by Travis Fain, a reporter for The (Greensboro) News & Record:
I hope people are disturbed by the revelation last week that both the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns are pushing news organizations to submit quotes for editing before publication, and that organizations are agreeing to it.
That is a sad and problematic threshold to cross. As a local newspaper reporter, my own exposure to the national campaigns has been limited, but already I sense a stronger-than-2008 push to control access and message. Two examples from last week:
Ann Romney was in Greensboro for a fundraiser. Initially there weren’t any public events announced, but earlier in the week the campaign called to say the potential first lady would give a speech at the local party headquarters. I was told that I and several area T.V. reporters would get about 2 minutes each to interview her after the speech, provided we didn’t ask policy questions.
As ridiculous as that seemed, I agreed. But within a few hours N.C. Romney campaign spokesman Robert Reid called back, apologizing. My two minutes were gone, he said, because Mrs. Romney wouldn’t have the time. The T.V. interviews, he acknowledged, would proceed as planned.
And that’s what happened. After Mrs. Romney’s brief public speech I was told, by name, that I couldn’t come into the back room where the interviews took place. Reid said there “was no official reason” for this.
For the record, I probably would have asked Mrs. Romney why she and her husband don’t just release more tax returns, or what she thinks of the various Republicans calling on him to do so.
Mayor Foxx clams up in Greensboro
Which brings me to the Obama campaign. They brought Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to Greensboro last week to talk about the campaign’s new 9-3-1 program, which guarantees a seat at the president’s convention speech to any volunteer who works at least three three-hour shifts for the campaign. I covered this, but also had questions for Mayor Foxx from a colleague of mine who was writing about a $50 million federal grant Charlotte is using to defray security costs for the coming Democratic National Convention.
I was told Mayor Foxx wouldn’t have time to talk to me about the grant. So, to be clear: He had time to drive to Greensboro and spend 20 minutes discussing a campaign initiative that boiled down to about three sentences, but he did not have time to talk about how Charlotte is divvying up $50 million.
Cameron French, the president’s N.C. press secretary, arranged for Foxx’s press secretary to call me, which he did. He referred my colleague to a couple of other people in city government, neither of which was able to answer her questions.
My point in all this? I haven’t fully distilled it. But as the public relations industry continues to grow, and the number of reporters out there continues to shrink, I think more and more battles are going to go like this. And it’s the public who loses.