Commentary: Ejection Of Reporter From New Mexico Public Meeting Raises Grave Concerns

Feb 13, 2020


Credit KUNM

  Commentary: Under Senate rules and the Open Meetings Act, the committee was permitted to set the restriction. Yet the senators did not stop at turning Knapp's camera off. After a brief and polite exchange, Sedillo Lopez asked Knapp to leave the room altogether. The reporter was not only prevented from doing her job, but deprived of her right, as a member of the public and a constituent, even to watch her own legislators conduct a public meeting. 

For that, Knapp deserves a prominent apology. 

The offense here was not partisan or regional in origin: Woods is a Republican from Broadview, and Sedillo Lopez is an Albuquerque Democrat. 

One solution is simple and was actually introduced before this incident occurred. In January, state Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, introduced a resolution amending Senate rules to permit photography, video and audio recordings of committee meetings as a right of the entire citizenry, not just professional news gatherers. It awaits action before the Senate Rules Committee.

Longer term, Woods' comments reflect the contemporary mistrust of journalism as an institution, of how reporters do their job and with what intent. Besides mistrust, some parties are in fact hostile to independent reporting, which is a distinct obstacle.

Sometimes the ubiquity of the internet, social media and the curation of stories by algorithm rather than journalistic judgment are identified as causes of public mistrust; on the other hand, these platforms also give journalists the means to talk with readers about standards and practices and, over time, to build trust through honest and frank interactions with readers. 

This is why, despite deadline pressure, I often respond when readers (well, some of you don't read the stories, but that's another discussion) yell at me on Twitter or email me accusing me of a covert agenda.

Reader feedback has often helped me improve and learn more; in turn I am happy to demystify what we are up to and why we do it. After all, we aren't just news scribblers, but fellow citizens.