Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tenn. GOP lawmakers accuse reporters of bias; reporters say lawmakers holding secret meetings

Republican lawmakers and journalists in Tennessee are at odds over what reporters say is a lack of freedom of information and accusations from lawmakers that statehouse reporters are conspiring to advocate against a guns rights bill that allows permitted guns in parks, Corey Hutchins reports for Columbia Journalism Review.

"It’s the most high-profile recent example of a growing transparency battle between the statehouse press corps and politicians in Tennessee," Hutchins writes. This all comes in the wake of joint news coverage "to expose an apparent growing trend at the capitol in which House lawmakers hold unannounced secret pre-meetings before publicly discussing pending legislation in committees."

"When Tennessean reporter David Boucher spoke with legislators for his piece on the secret meetings, he found 'none of the lawmakers could say why it was in the state’s best interest for the meetings to be closed and not publicly noticed,'" Hutchins writes. The Associated Press "noted how supporters of the pre-meeting process 'argued they allowed for free-flowing discussion about bills without lobbyists, the media or parliamentary procedure.'"

"In Tennessee, the legislature is exempt from the state’s open meetings and sunshine laws, but the reporting still had an impact," Hutchins writes. "Soon after the stories ran in newspapers and on TV broadcasts, the House Speaker sent a memo to committee chairmen urging them to announce meetings and establish an open-door policy." (Read more)

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