WIUM Tristates Public Radio

An Erosion of Access to Missouri Lawmakers

Jan 19, 2016

The Associated Press reported state senators in Missouri ordered journalists off the Senate floor after some lawmakers complained their private conversations had been tweeted.

The Senate voted 26-4 to relocate reporters to a visitors' gallery overlooking the chamber in Jefferson City.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said he initiated the move because some reporters had violated the Senate's trust in recent years by tweeting private discussions and negotiations they overheard on the Senate floor.

He didn't cite any specific examples.

Shop Talk panelist Jonathan Ahl said lawmakers have also moved the press room to the Missouri State Capitol’s fifth floor, which is not accessible by elevator.  He called the moves an erosion of access for reporters.

Ahl said governments are obligated to maintain reasonable access for the public and media to be witness to the process.

Jasmine Crighton said the Senate floor should be considered a public space and lawmakers should not have a reasonable expectation of privacy while on the floor. She considers the Senate’s actions a misstep and said journalists have not done anything wrong.

Rich Egger said when people in power have an adversarial relationship with journalists, it’s often because journalists are reporting the truth – and sometimes people in power don’t want the truth to be known.