In the continuing bizarre conflict between WSPD and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, the Mayor barred a WSPD reporter from a public press conference (details here). While I think it was a ridiculous decision on behalf of the Mayor that will only lead to more difficulties for him and our city, it raises some interesting questions about a 'right' to gather news.
Courts have long maintained that a freedom of the press leads to freedom to gather the data. While there are some restrictions which have arisen over time (national security, social security numbers, identification of juveniles who commit crimes), these are usually identified in public records laws created in the wake of court rulings. Further, the courts have ruled that the media is not entitled to special access, where members of the general public would be prohibited (like crime scenes). The Supreme Court has further ruled that as long as restrictions treat the media and public equally, they raise no constitutional questions.
But the courts have also ruled that "an arbitrary interference with access to important information is an abridgement of the press freedom protected by the First Amendment. . . . The First Amendment protects the public and the press from abridgement of their right of access to information about the operation of their government." (Richmond Newspapers Inc. v. Virginia)
So Carty 'arbitrarily' decides that a local reporter is "not objective" and thus not allowed access to his public press conference. He further exacerbates the situation by refusing to account for the decision to restrict access to a member of the media.
It seems the Mayor needs a lesson in basic First Amendment rights - and he should probably rethink his criticism of Ottawa County Sheriff Robert Bratton's "arrogance in government."