The Washington Post has a new follow-up to its piece yesterday on how a group of journalists and bureaucrats rejected my request for a temporary press credential in order to report an article for In These Times - the award-winning magazine where I work as a senior editor. But buried in her breathless coverage is a very interesting nugget: namely, that there are seeds of a possible progressive-conservative coalition to stop reporters from corporate-owned news outlets from trying to bar public access to the U.S. Capitol.
To get to this nugget, you first have to dig through some more deliberate distortions from the Post's reporter, Mary Ann Akers, some of which I already debunked on my website. For instance, she once again claims I pulled some trick by getting an intern pass, when she herself already reported that the head of the press gallery told me to do just this. Akers also for some strange reason pretends that I was only requesting the credential in order to work on my book, which is a deliberate lie, as she was told repeatedly that the editor of In These Times filed paperwork showing that I was going to be writing a story on progressive lawmakers in the new Congress.
But all of that is unimportant when you get to ultra-conservative Fox News personality Fred Barnes' comments. He first claims that he was granted a credential but I wasn't because he is in a "different league" than me. He tries to back this claim up by saying that while I have at times worked for politicians, he has written for publications like the Weekly Standard, which he claims with a straight face is "part of mainstream journalism." That the Weekly Standard's own editor, Bill Kristol, long served as a top aide to Vice President Dan Quayle is never mentioned by Barnes.
Nonetheless, here's where it gets interesting:
Barnes was quick to say he believes the press galleries ought to give Sirota credentials to cover Congress. "I think their rules shouldn't be so cramped that they can't make accommodations for people like Sirota. Even if he is an activist. In this case, he's a journalist writing a book." Bottom line, Barnes said, "I think [the press galleries] ought to be broad minded about this rather than restrictive."
This might be the very first thing I've ever agreed with Fred Barnes on. He's spot on. Rather than respecting a democratic tradition of transparent government (which the media purports to care about), the reporters who Congress allows to control the credentialing process clearly abused their power by excercising it to deny access to me. They did this to me, and likely do it to others, possibly out of ideological bias as Sanders' chief of staff Jeff Weaver suggests to the post. Or, they did it in order to preserve their monopoly on what should be very public information: namely, the operations of our government.
That's why Barnes is correct when he says that the process should err on the side of openness - whether you are a conservative or a progressive. Our government is not the exclusive property of a committee of self-appointed reporters, it is the property of the people. Furthermore, as a new poll out today shows, the public strongly supports new and alternative media and its influence on journalism and the political process as a whole, meaning the effort to bar non-corporate media from the Capitol is a direct affront to majority public opinion.
The Washington Post ends its piece by asking for readers views on the topic, and I suggest anyone who is interested in stopping these kinds of attacks on our democracy to go make their voice heard on the Post's website. But I don't think that will end this spat. My guess is that now that we've seen exactly how this secretive, arbitrary process works, and now that we've seen in Barnes a similar concern about it from the right, there could be an effort to force the system to change, and to crackdown on reporters who try to bar public access to the U.S. Capitol. So make sure to also email the press gallery and cc Speaker Pelosi's Office with your complaints.
This issue really isn't about me. I'm guessing that what happened to me has happened to a number of others, and especially journalists in the alternative media. If we are going to break the corporate-owned media's stranglehold on news, then we can't sit back and allow this kind of thing to happen. If enough noise is made, we may yet get a lawmaker to change the rules to stop reporters from abusing the very democratic transparency they purport to support.