Wednesday, January 10, 2007

And so it continues...Carty vs. WSPD

So another press conference where WSPD on-air talent gets physically barred from a public press conference...except that this time, the Mayor cancels the public press conference and opts, instead, for individual interviews.

(Toledo Blade story here. WSPD is covering this latest incident as a news item, but doesn't have a story listed on their website, yet. 13ABC has story and video here.)

I guess the question some would have is this: does the fact that you're an on-air talent versus an individual specifically assigned to gather news (reporter) make a difference when it comes to first-amendment rights of a free press?

My initial reaction is that the news agency gets to decide who collects their information - not the elected official. And it would be a bad precedent to allow any elected official to determine who can or cannot attend a public press conference, especially when such determination is based upon the elected official's opinion of objectivity.

Further, I have no problem with not acknowledging questions from specific individuals in the audience, regardless of who they represent. If Carty doesn't want to answer questions from Kevin Milliken, he doesn't have to. But that doesn't give him the authority to restrict access to a public event in a public building.

My fear is that the only way this will be resolved is with a lawsuit...and no matter who wins such a contest, the public loses.

25 comments:

Lisa Renee said...

I agree the Mayor can refuse to answer questions from any media source and that probably was the better way to handle it. Especially if this is going to continue to be an ongoing saga of "Will WSPD be let in". Unless the Mayor and WSPD are secretly in a pact to help WSPD gain listeners, it's better to err on the side of caution when it comes to following the constitutional aspect.

Tom Watkins commented on Glass City about this and stated he had warned them about the lines being blurred between editorial and news. It also sounds as if a news representative from WSPD was allowed in both yesterday and today that the issue was related to Kevin and today Brian and Kevin. Which makes me wonder, if WSPD had representation from the news department yesterday why was this even an issue? I was under the impression that WSPD was being totally prevented from having any news representation there. If it is true that WSPD was allowed news representation there it really seems to diminish the constitutional argument of the freedom of the press aspect.

Maggie Thurber said...

I disagree, Lisa, that the ability to have one reporter present negates concern about violation of the freedom of the press.

I think, however, that you and I could agree that an issue is whether or not the first amendment right to a free press applies to both reporters and others (like columnists, editors, tv & radio talk show hosts) within the media family.

I just can't help but think that if Tom Walton, editor of The Blade, showed up at a press conference that Carty would claim he wasn't objective and therefore wouldn't be allowed in.

I think the issue is the arbitrary nature of his 'selection' of who can or cannot be included based upon his dislike of the opinions expressed.

Paul A. Miller said...

Lisa, I'd consider you a very valid news reporter, even though you aren't paid nearly enough. ;-)

I also consider myself a reporter, among other things.

We are both pretty opinionated. Very little could stop Carty or anybody else, for that matter, from denying us access. This is a very real issue. This may be a NEWS FLASH to Carty and co., but we are allowed to have opinions! It's called free speech.

If I was running WSPD, I would ONLY send Kevin Milliken (full disclosure - I have spoken to Kevin a couple times, including as an on-air interviewee) and force the issue. Carty has no right to bar any reporter for any reason other than criminality or threats. When he tried, I'd sue him.

Guess what Carty - that's news too!

One more point: No self-respecting reporter or news gathering organization would continue to attend Carty's "press conferences" when one of their peers is being shutout by him. Let Carty talk to the walls.

Just out of curiosity, how do you think the press would react if President Bush banned Helen Thomas from his press conferences?

I have a feeling it would be a rather large news story from everyone, everyday until Bush backed down. And rightly so.

Brian said...

We did not construct the constraints of "opinion" versus "news". These are constructs of Brian Wilson. We are simply acting within the parameters as Wilson, the boss at WSPD, defined them.

He banned the mayor and his staff from appearing on his shows. However, he feels that WSPD should be allowed to gather news.

So we are going to operate within the parameters defined on the air by Brian Wilson and in writing to me by Cassie Wilson. They ban us from talk shows, we ban their talk show hosts. They cover our news, we allow their reporters into our press conferences and answer their questions.

How is this unfair?

Brian Schwartz

Maggie Thurber said...

With all due respect, Brian, this isn't about "fair" - it's about the law and the Constitution.

"Fair" would have meant that the Mayor, in the original cause of this dispute, would have either provided proof that the talk show hosts were telling 'out-right lies' or would have apologized.

And if this is the explanation that you're giving now, why didn't you just say so in the first place - at the first time that you decided to bar a member of the media?

Regardless, the way the mayor has handled this will probably mean a cost to taxpayers - one way or the other - at a time when the City can least afford such costs. Brilliant!

bobthedad said...

Brian, it appears you left out an important detail or two about the WSPD ban. Could that qualify as a half truth, a mistruth, or an outright lie?

You are playing a game you can't win, and you are doing so with my tax dollars.

News said...

Comments regarding Brian Schwartz's post:

1. There is and never will be a ban on the mayor from appearing on WSPD News and within its newscasts. I have nothing to do with the ban on the mayor's appearance on talk shows. You try to equate Brian Wilson and myself as one -- implying I as News Director had something to do with decisions made by the Program Diretor. That is blatently false.

2. WSPD News has not been informed about news conferences held by the administration for the last eight months. You are discriminating against our news department for actions taken by programming. Yet you and the mayor both, in recent weeks, have complimented our news coverage, telling our reporter our news content is fair and unbiased.

3. You say you allow "their (WSPD) reporters" in to cover news conferences. Yet this afternoon (Wednesday) you only cited Nik Rajkovic as being allowed to attend your 1:15 event. Am I to take from this that I now am banned also from covering news events at One Government Center? If we take your objections regarding Kevin Milliken as reasons why you'll not allow a reporter in, you'll need different reasons for my exclusion. I do not host a talk show and never have expressed an opinion on the air. Yet you refused to answer my questions or acknowledge my presence. Are you condeming me simply due to my marital relationship? Or are you implying you do not consider me to be a journalist? That the administration has the right to determine which journalists cover the story best to their liking?

4. Kevin Milliken spends 7 hours a day in the newsroom and one hour a day taking calls from listeners. He is a credentialed reporter and was to cover a news conference regarding an event involving the city and the University of Toledo. There was no controversy there. No so-called bias to be "exploited." Yet you chose that event to ban Kevin. Please explain how his presence in THAT news conference would have resulted in biased reporting.

You are attempting to divert this issue away from the First Amendment.
Cassie Wilson

Maggie Thurber said...

Here's another question for Brian...before taking such action, did anyone consult with the city law department? My guess is no - otherwise, this wouldn't have happened the way it did...

Thanks to Cassie Wilson for weighing in with some very valid points!

Brian said...

Cassie,

I did not see you in the masses in the lobby. You'd have been invited in.

After the bad behavior exhibited by WSPD, I wasn't inclined to talk to any of you.

Where in the Constitution does it say I have to talk to you or your reporters? Where does it say I have to inform them of anything?

I don't care how many hours Kevin does what. You and your betrothed created this firewall of news versus talk. We're living by rules you created.

Maggie, I believe I articulated the reasons the first time. You must have listened to the WSPD version of the news.

The city's Law Department was consulted and informed. If you watch the footage from WNWO, you can see the Law Director in the room.

Casie, I'm not nearly as creative with the news as the "entertainers" at WSPD, but I'm sure they'd have found a way to smear the mayor with THAT story.

Maggie Thurber said...

Brian - thanks for the clarification about law director...I did not see WNWO, but I did see the other stations and the Blade. Shame on you for thinking I use only one source of the news...

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
News said...

Quote:

"Casie (sic), I'm not nearly as creative with the news as the "entertainers" at WSPD, but I'm sure they'd have found a way to smear the mayor with THAT story."

So our news department was denied access to the original news conference because of something you thought COULD happen? Wow. How can you be certain of any coverage from any reporter -- especially a reporter new to the city? You only allow reporters in who will present the news in a manner in which you BELIEVE they'll cover it? How prescient.

And I will reiterate -- I have nothing to do with programming decisions. We have not created a "firewall" between news and talk(opinion). There is and always will be such a distinction in media, whether it's radio or newspaper. Check with any News/Talk radio news director.

Maggie Thurber said...

Brian Schwartz has made 2 posts to this blog regarding disclosure. Since I'm not a reporter and this is my blog, I'm not putting the posts on - primarily because I don't like his sarcastic tone...and since it's my blog, that's my perogative.

But, he raised a good point about disclosure, so let me say...

Kevin Milliken worked for the Board of County Commissioners as the PIO when I was a commissioner. He was on staff when I took office and, interestingly (though Brian didn't know this), I'm the one who informed him that his position was being eliminated and he was out of a job. How this has any bearing on the First Amendment, I don't know, but I'll let you be the judge.

Secondly, I've been a fill-in talk show host on WSPD. That's no secret, as I've blogged about here. I've done this three times. Again, that temporary stint doesn't impact my interpretation of the First Amendment or the actions of the mayor. Perhaps Brian is trying to imply that such a fill-in has somehow made me beholden to WSPD, especially because I've also been a frequest guest when I was elected. However, Brian knows me well enough to know that I'm beholden to no one and have always stood on my own in my opinions and statements.

Finally, Brian was a volunteer on my campaigns and his wife was an employee in the Clerk of Courts office when I was Clerk.

That's full disclosure and hopefully not in a sarcastic, demeaning way. And not done in an attempt to try and deflect the issue.

But I should have expected such attempted discrediting from the mayor's spokesman...after all - that's his job - to spin the negatives and promote the positives. However, try as you might to discredit those who provide objective criticism - this mayor is on the wrong side of this issue. And the more stubborn he is, the worse it gets.

Neighborhood Concerns said...

"So we are going to operate within the parameters defined on the air by Brian Wilson and in writing to me by Cassie Wilson. They ban us from talk shows, we ban their talk show hosts. They cover our news, we allow their reporters into our press conferences and answer their questions.

How is this unfair?

Brian Schwartz"

Mr. Schwartz, I am sure you are aware of this, but you are part of a city government and as long as city government and city officials and new organizations of all stripes have been around there has always and will be forever friction between the two.

As public officials one would assume you would rise above the fray and not bring yourself into it. Is a news organization does not want the Mayor or members of his staff on air then get over it, frankly I would think having the Mayor on air would make for good ratings what with his declarations of unfair treatment in Port Clinton.

You also do realize that the public discourse is not helping the city at all with regards to WSPD and the Mayor.

historymike said...

IMHO - there is no justification for an attempt by the Finkbeiner administration to pick and choose who covers news conferences.

This is solely the domain of individual media outlets.

More on this on my blog.

Michael said...

It seems that Brian Scwhartz is making a distinction between reporter and talk show host -- solely on the basis that he believes WSPD has done the same.

WSPD is a business. It is licensed, but doesn't have to follow First Amendment rules the same the gov't does.

Gov't and business don't play by the same rules.

All that the mayor is doing is giving more credibility to WSPD. Aren't there enough other media outlets in Toledo? Besides, as I stated on my blog, if the mayor doesn't like what is being reported, he can start his own blog!

The LAPD has done so. GM certainly has (Google GM and Thomas Friedman/ NYTimes columnist).

While you can't win a fight against the media, you do now have your own media outlet (i.e., blogs).
Mike

Karen said...

Yikes! Looks like Maggie's blog is now another battleline on this Rosie vs. Donald-esque fued.

Look, everyone is dirty on this thing.

WSPD has, since it changed personnel about a year ago, been poking Carty with a stick routinely. Whether it's warranted or not is a matter of opinion. But it's a matter for the listener to decide, not the Mayor and not his staff. WSPD is recognized as a news organization and operates in that capacity.

They are not state run. They can invite who they want on when they wish. They can set the rules.

Carty is not Hugo Chavez. He cannot dictate WSPD how they must run their operations. If Carty doesn't want to appear on WSPD as a guest, he doesn't have to do so. However, his theory that he can exclude a credentialed member of the press as punishment or because he doesn't like what they have to say is irrational and dangerous.

The first ammendment says:

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.

If one wants to nitpick, I suppose you could suggest that while Carty & Co. are refusing to engage with WSPD, they are not prohibiting them from broadcasting whatever they wish. It's specious, but they could say it.

Whether you agree with WSPD's position on the Carty or not, they have a right to say it. The increase or decline of listeners will indicate whether folks agree. All this really does is cause Carty to look small and out-of-control. It proves (and continues to fuel) WSPD's argument that Carty is vindictive and perhaps unbalanced.

I seem to remember that Richard Nixon had this same kind of paranoia and I think we all know what happened to him.

Kate said...

Is anyone else alarmed by an employee of the Mayor re-interpreting the Bill of Rights?

I mean seriously, who the hell do these people think they are?

-Sepp said...

WSPD reporters aren't "objective" enough?
Objective...
"not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion".

EVERY news outlet and especially the daily local aren't "objective" enough when it comes to spinning the news around here. WSPD's reporters haven't lied about Carty nor, have I ever heard him being outright slandered. Carty simply doesent want to risk some rogue reporter asking a valid question and having to stammer his way through it with the other media outlets present. If I were a reporter, I would be asking Carty how he was able to tout economic accomplishments for 2006 while the city is 10 million in the red for 2007!
Sorry Brian but, your job could be cut to save the city money in these dire times and replaced with a straight jacket and roll of duct tape.

Brian said...

Nonesense Karen. I have no feud with Maggie. If I didn't respect her, I wouldn't have helped her get elected. Despite what she's done and she's been through, I still respect her and she is right that I know that she's never felt beholden to anyone.

Having said that, I think full disclosure of one's prejudices and biases is necessary.

Actually, my wife was pretty angry with Maggie today for bringing her into this fray on the radio. I told her I'M the one who brought her into it in the interest of full disclosure. I can't say she understands, but she's not angry at Maggie anymore.

bobthedad said...

I am sure all of us would like to see this situation disappear. Regardless of your feelings about Kevin Milliken, I cannot imagine any member of the media that would quietly accept one of their own being banned from a press conference. David Harris of UT made a great point in his interview with Tom Watkins in that barring a member of the media is a first amendment violation, but refusing to answer their questions is not. I am sure Brian Schwartz is simply doing what he believes to be his job. Part of that job is also getting past this issue and getting back to the business of running our city. Blocking doors and potentially defending his actions in court will require time and effort that he doesn't need to spend.

Mr. Schwartz, you don't have to talk to them, put WSPD back on your fax broadcasts and lets move on.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Actually, I hope it doesn't go away.

Consider WSPD-AM's history and reputation.

Now consider the mayor's.

Nuff said...

Kate said...

When you prohibit an associated news station from your notification list and bar their reporters from noticed press conference - you just plainly have a problem.

As I have said, there have been times when people heed to hear a judge say this.

I'm sure that this can be arranged.

This is so far from a gray area.....

Knightime said...

Maggie-

I aggree with you completely. This is very unfortunate that this type of childish fighting is going on up on the 22nd floor. I hope you remember me from the days of 2004 and I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season!

Always-

Kid Toledo

Maggie Thurber said...

wow - Kid Toledo - that's a name I haven't heard in a long time! But of course I remember you!

Hope your family is well - and thanks for posting on my blog...hope to hear more of you!

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