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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
9:07 PM Wed, Jan. 23rd

Editorial: Less access for us means less transparency for you

Arizona Republic photographer Nick Oza interviews Capitol Media Services reporter Howard Fischer about the Arizona House of Representatives denying reporters access to the floor pending criminal and civil background checks, in Phoenix Thursday.

AP Photo/Ryan VanVelzer

Arizona Republic photographer Nick Oza interviews Capitol Media Services reporter Howard Fischer about the Arizona House of Representatives denying reporters access to the floor pending criminal and civil background checks, in Phoenix Thursday.

Once again, some Arizona legislators are making unpopular examples of themselves … and the nation is watching.

This week, reporters lost access to the House floor - unless they agree to submit to background checks.

House Democrats chimed in immediately, and correctly, that this move is a punch at the freedom of the press.

In basically the same breath, Republicans issued this decree and then talked about loosening gun control laws for legislators. Do you want your representative packing when he is on the floor? Probably not, as heated as those debates can get. Who says they are any more stable than Mr. Smith off the street? If their concern is their personal safety, I’m not sure banishing reporters and then making it easier for fellow representatives to have a gun next to you is a smart avenue to travel.

Back to the access issue: Why should you care about reporters and their access? The answer is right on this page. You are free to voice opinions on stories via letters to the editor and Talks of the Town. Your information comes from the stories you read, the stories Capitol Media Services reporter Howard Fischer writes for you.

The claim is that the background checks are for all non-employees and do not target journalists. Reporters are different from the public in that they do not just walk in and present themselves. They are identified and known to legislators.

As the Associated Press reported, “Reporters who routinely cover the House receive credentials and get access to the chamber’s floor through an electronic key card, and for decades there have been desks for them to do their work. When the House isn’t in session, reporters can talk to lawmakers and ask them questions. It’s a key method for journalists who cover the House to get to know and understand the positions of lawmakers in both major parties.”

Isn’t it interesting that the rule was changed after the Arizona Capitol Times reported House Speaker David Gowan, a Republican, was using a state vehicle and collecting per diems while traveling. He ended up repaying the state $12,000 after the report. Of course, Gowan denies the new rule has anything to do with being exposed by a reporter. Maybe so, but it doesn’t look good.

If security is such a big issue, why isn’t the Senate following suit? President Andy Biggs told the Associated Press Wednesday that they have no plans to change its policies regarding reporter access.

At least half the legislature still has their heads on straight.