Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us for this special edition of our live blog, in which we will cover our appeal of the decision by the Senate Press Gallery’s Standing Committee of Correspondents declining to renew Lyle Denniston’s press credential.
We are in the Capitol Visitor Center. It is a small room. Tom Goldstein and Lyle Denniston will be speaking on behalf of the blog.
Annie Tin, the superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery, is here already.
The other expected attendees, on behalf of the Press Gallery and the Standing Committee, include Siobhan Hughes of The Wall Street Journal, who is the chair of the committee; Peter Urban of Stephens Media Group, Kate Hunter of Bloomberg, Emily Ethridge of CQ/Roll Call, and Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post.
We expect an opening statement from Siobhan Hughes, followed by an opening statement from the blog and then questions from the Committee.
The Committee is now here. The room is filling up quickly.
Hughes thanks everyone for being here. We are here to discuss the blog, not individuals, she says.
The Standing Committee meets as a group of journalists who are committed to ensuring access to Congress for as many journalists as possible.
We do not take our responsibilities lightly. When we credential reporters, it means that no lobbyists or pleaders of special interests will wear this credential, nor will political party operatives. Publications must pass muster as well as reporters to avoid conflicts. These are not new ideas.
Some of these words were written more than a decade ago by a predecessor who faced a difficult task.
Standing Committee grew out of a time when reporters were working as lobbyists, lobbyists as reporters. Cannot be both the agent of a reader and the agent of something else. We know because we tried it.
Media is ever evolving and changing, but the need to guard against conflicts of interest remains. This is why Standing Committee (hereinafter SC) was created.
No one ever asks whether press is ever working for some other business or group.That is the foundation of reporters' access.
I know people have a lot of questions about SC. We don't make decisions about credentials based on quality of content. We also don't make decisions based on popular pressure.
Not good for institution of journalism to do so either. We do look at structure of business: what kind of firewalls are in place? How accurate are disclosures?
It's worth saying that these are questions I am asking more and more these days, as we see organizations try to latch on to label of news organizations to gain access to lawmakers. We know that groups are watching our procedurdes very closely. I personally feel great pressure to get this right.
Today we will hear from SCOTUSblog, whose application the SC considered for months. Said vote was 4-0 that blog had not met standards. We will get into these issues today.
Before we get there, I want to be clear. Burden of proof is on applicants to meet the standards.
To gain satisfaction, we need accurate information. So when we ask questions, we are not being gratuituous or trying to give someone a hard time.
Lyle: I am a reporter. I sympathize with the problems with your voice. (Hughes has a cold.)
In the days when I hung out in the gallery, I knew different faces from what are here now.
I have been at my trade, says Lyle, for 66 years. From the first day I walked into a newsroom, I have never had any illusion that I worked for anyone other than my readers.
None of my jobs has required me to do anything differently from what I now do for the blog.
I have a strict ethical sense about not having myself be at the center of any public controversy. Former editor told him anyone who wants to know about you can buy the paper.
I realize that I am here as part of a test case. At my age, the only tests I think about are whether I am candidate for latest geriatric pharmaceuticals. I work all the time. I love my job, and I love the blog. I am not here as a Trojan horse, to try to bring an alien influence into the Press Gallery.
I am an agent of no one, other than my own readers.
All my other relevant experiences have been in daily newspapers. From my earliest days, I have had a peculiar fascination with the law.
What the blog does, and therefore this is what I do, is to provide really comprehensive coverage of what the Court does. We feel an obligation to provide strong details and analysis of every case the Court takes, and many that it doesn't.
One thing I have brought to the blog is to try to anticipate what kinds of issues will be coming to the Court. My primary focus is on the Court, but I also started covering same-sex marriage in 1996 when with the Baltimore Sun.
Focus does not mean that I have no interest or even a minimal interest in the doings of the Senate and the House.
In this day and age, we know more than ever before that there will be litigation. Cannot cover litigation if you are not totally familiar with the legislative process.
I was repeatedly in touch with members of Senate staff re legislative history with regard to health care, for example. We need to be able to examine closely and with inquiry what it is that the legislative record tells us.
(Lyle had a deToqueville quote which I botched, sorry.) Ongoing need to have access to the buildings.
It is a whole lot easier to get in with a credential than as a stranger off the street too.
I wholly endorse what the Reporters Committee said about SC's work. You are the keeper of the temple, we in journalism depend on you to maintain tradition of independence.
I am as opposed to a lobby nose in the tent as any of you could be.
I know what happens with spinmeisters, because I hear from them too.
I want to say to you not to instruct you about your role, but as the central gatekeeper to the credentialiing process, SC can confer on a working journalist the aura of legitimacy and propriety. I wore my blog credential with considerable pride.
When you exercise this terribly challenging and discrete role that you exercise, I hope you will keep in mind that, but for a credential for you, the prospect of getting a credential elsewhere is seriously compromised.
As you may know, I have a WBUR credential at the Court.
When I joined the blog, I went to the credentialing entity at the Court and said, "what do I do now?" There are two rules under which I have my credential: an arrangement with WBUR; and the credential under an informal rule for anyone who has covered the Court for 50 years.