It seems as if I’ve been going back to these basics of journalism a lot lately.
Now here’s a scenario being fought about behind the scenes. For now we’ll keep the other players’ identities quiet in the interest of being fair. But if they stick to their guns, I might just out them and start a new policy of letting you the readers know when you’re being excluded from public policy discssions.
I’d like your feedback on the following:
A private organization whose existence depends on a publicly funded contract hosts a meeting with developers. A consultant hired by the city speaks to the developers at said meeting. The discussion involves future actions and policies related to downtown growth and development.
Should I as a reporter be barred from attending? Interestingly enough, several of the developers felt I should have been allowed. The other sides argue otherwise. The cited reason? The old “Some of the people may not feel free to express their true thoughts or ask questions if a reporter is in the room” bit.
I’ve heard this one before. A classic was when former ODOT head Neal McCaleb insisted the public didn’t need to hear deliberations on which route would be chosen for relocation of the I-40 Crosstown Expressway. (Jack Money and I crashed that meeting anyway, dared the ODOT folks to forcibly remove us and came out with one heck of a front-page story). And because we were there, we remain a reminder to all that the state as represented by McCaleb promised to build and pay for a boulevard to replace the current alignment.
So, do you the readers want me to attend such meetings and report back to you? Or would you rather these discussions be held in private?