Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reporters booted from Romney event at Newseum

Yes, that Newseum.

The reporters were covering presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's speech yesterday in downtown Washington to an influential group of top company executives called the Business Roundtable.

Romney stayed to take questions from the audience, according to The Boston Globe. But following his 28-minute address, reporters were escorted out of the room and weren’t allowed to listen to the questions, the Globe says.

The event was held at the Newseum, which draws revenue by renting space for parties and other occasions at its $450 million complex.

The museum about news was developed by its main supporter: Freedom Forum, whose mission includes free speech. Freedom Forum was the original Gannett Foundation until 20 years ago, when retired Gannett CEO Al Neuharth and associates gave it a new name and mission.

Earlier: How the Newseum blew a financial hole in Freedom Forum.


  1. And your point is what, all events at the Newseum should give full access to the press?

  2. This country doesn't exist anymore.

  3. The event was not held inside the Newseum. It was held in the Knight Conference Center, which is on the 7th and 8th floors of the attached office building. It was a private rental event, in no way affiliated with the Newseum.

  4. Gee, where's "Mr. First Amendment" Ken Paulson when you need him? Drifting toward retirement in Nashville.

  5. Splitting hairs, 3:41. Who got the rental fee? The Newseum, which is desperate for every cent it can squeeze out of anyone.

  6. Since when is denying a free press access to a politically based event O.K? Did they change the meaning of "free?" Don't answer that.

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  8. 2:20 If the Freedom Forum/Newseum/office-residential tower complex was just any other commercial property, its owners could rent solely to maximize income -- and without regard for higher ambitions or purposes.

    But it's not. Al Neuharth turned what had been the plain-vanilla Gannett Foundation into an entity -- Freedom Forum -- with a lofty sounding mission: Free press, free speech and free spirit. Indeed, the complex's defining feature is a 74-foot-high marble engraving of the First Amendment above its main entrance.

    This means Freedom Forum can't allow just any activity on its property without risking its core purpose and reputation. So, yes, it can stipulate in all rental contracts any number of lawful restrictions.

    Could Freedom Forum anticipate Romney's campaign would eject reporters from the property? Perhaps; the candidate has hardly been making himself accessible to the press.

    But the point is, when the foundation entered the event planning and catering business, it started drifting from Neuharth's new mission. And the Romney incident illustrates the negative consequences.

    3:41 That the event took place in the Knight Conference Center only makes this worse. Now, both Freedom Forum and the Knight journalism foundation have been made to look foolish.

    What you had was a presidential candidate's handlers shooing reporters away within view of that enormous marble engraving. At the risk of stating the obvious, Freedom Forum is supposed to enable government watchdogs -- not a lapdogs.

    After all, this was a candidate who not only wouldn't take questions from reporters -- he wouldn't even allow the reporters to hear questions and his answers from other people. What kind of free press, free speech and free spirit is that?

  9. 5:40, what kind of free speech is that? It's the Corporate Free Speech. It's incredibly depressing to see some having no problem with it, assuming that those people work in journalism.

  10. Kind of the same reaction here when someone goes after one of your pals. You get rid of their post

  11. The PR bigshot at the Newseum told Jim Romenesko that "we don't control what happens in our rented rooms". In other words, the Newseum is more than willing to accommodate people who would trade a constitutional guarantee for government favors.

  12. “the candidate has hardly been making himself accessible to the press” Hopkins.

    If the goal of this blog is to avoid partisan politics, then you’ve certainly opened the door for a reply as the same can easily said about Obama, beginning with his notable lack of press conferences (and few questions on the occasion he does) when compared to his predecessors.

    Regardless, just because the Freedom Forum/Newseum is the venue doesn’t guarantee all those paying for its use provide free and full access to the press, that is unless it’s written into the rental agreement, which is highly doubtful.

    Frankly, with all due respect (and still a Gannettblog fan), isn’t that the story you're attempting to bring to light and discuss here Jim? Unfortunately, your focus on Romney takes away from that focused debate, a move that appears to expose your own bias as all politicians, including Obama, have held private Q&A’s.

  13. 6:37 I"m focusing on Romney because it was his event.

    I would have said 100% the same thing had it been Obama's team tossing out the press.

    That's a fact.

  14. Both Freedom Forum and the Knight journalism foundation ARE FOOLISH. They fashion themselves as masters of the universe. Imposing their whims on hapless j-schools, start ups and useless journalism groups for starters.

  15. Another Newseum flak sticks to the (bad) company line.

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  17. If the Newseum doesn't get why this stinks, well ... what else doesn't it get?

    I'm with all who say if you want to hold the nation's top elected office, what you say is on the record and what you do is of public interest. These secret fundraiser things are sleazy.

    Too bad that for a little cash the Newseum became No-See-'Im.

  18. This whole thread is quite inane. Thousands of non-profits earn income by renting out their facilities for social and business functions. An art museum that rents its hall for a wedding reception assumes no responsibility for the validity of the ceremony, or the eligibility and suitability of the partners. More to the point, nobody expects the museum to critique the aesthetic merit of the decorations. Everybody understands that a rental event simply has nothing to do with the museum's mission.

    I love the huffing about "people who would trade a constitutional guarantee for government favors." Gov. Romney of course is a private citizen who is neither bound by any provision of the Constitution, nor in a position to grant any such favors.

  19. Hopkins claims he "would have said 100% the same thing had it been Obama's team tossing out the press. That's a fact."

    This "fact" is patently false. It emerges that Obama previously addressed the same group in the same venue with the same ground rules, eliciting no comment whatever by Hopkins.

    In Hopkins' defense, he can claim he merely was punked by the lamestream media's left-wing bias and preposterous double standard, by which they manufacture controversy for Romney while covering up for Obama.

  20. 10:51 I sure hope you're not a journalist.

    "Gov. Romney", as you state, is no longer a governor.

    And he is not a private citizen! He traded that status in when he decided to run for president.

    Good god what have we become.

  21. 11:07 is correct that Obama spoke to the Business Roundtable under the same press ground rules in March. I did not know this at the time; if I had, I would have reported it for the same reason I wrote about the Romney event.

    In a Google news search today, I found one story reporting Obama's appearance back then. It says only that Obama had a closed-door meeting with the business group at the Newseum; it doesn't say explicitly that reporters were asked to leave.

  22. 8:32 As a matter of protocol, elected and appointed officials are often addressed by the highest or most recent title they held after they've left office.

    For example: If I were to interview Sandra Day O'Connor for an interview, I would greet her as Justice O'Connor, even though she left the Supreme Court in 2006.

    Ditto for presidents Bush and Clinton, etc.

    This tradition is usually reserved for in-person greetings and introductions, however, although I guess they could appear in print, too.

  23. It's well and good to debate the advisability and propriety of both candidates consenting to closed-door Q&A with the Business Roundtable.

    But implying that the Constitution somehow was violated is just ignorant — doubly so in the case of a candidate who holds no office and in fact has no Constitutional status at all until the Electoral College meets.

  24. Jim at 8:55, on my copy desk, we would say, former Gov. Romney, so as not to confuse the few readers we have left.


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