• spjmadison

SPJ Statement on Election Night Access

Nov. 12, 2012


Contact: Mark Pitsch, president, Madison pro chapter, Society of Professional Journalists; 608-252-6145


MADISON – After a hard-fought campaign, Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Republican Tommy Thompson discovered common ground on Election Night – both restricted journalists’ access to people attending their victory parties.

The Baldwin and Thompson campaigns corralled journalists into a holding pen of sorts, restricting their movements through the public event. Similar limits were not in place for other members of the public. As Jessica VanEgeren of The Capital Times describes the circumstances in an article published online Friday, the campaigns also sent minders to follow and question journalists who dared to leave the pen.

These restrictions were just the latest imposed on the press during the election season. Over the course of the campaign, candidates or their campaign officials:

* refused to give interviews to certain news outlets or journalists. * barred some journalists from their events. * sought to control who could be interviewed at campaign events, or prevented access to supporters altogether.

The Madison pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists believes a healthy democracy requires a free press, and that candidates and elected officials impinge on press freedom by employing tactics that prevent journalists from covering events, candidates and elected officials, and supporters.

In the future, we encourage political candidates to:

* allow journalists access to supporters and others at Election Night and other campaign events. * allow all journalists to cover events. * conduct interviews with a wide range of news outlets and journalists.

Furthermore, we continue to encourage elected officials, their spokespersons and their staffs to respond to journalists’ inquiries in a timely, straightforward and honest manner.

A well-informed public depends upon the work of a vigorous, yet fair, press. The press has an obligation to uphold the highest standards of ethical conduct in performing its work. Government officials and candidates for office must respect the work of journalists who serve as the eyes and the ears of the public.



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