By DAVID R. FRAZIER
I have been a beneficiary of media perks for more than 50 years. It started in the 1960’s when I carried Speed Graphic cameras and film holders for my newspaperman father at Michigan State sports events in East Lansing, Michigan. The free meals, donuts, and soft drinks at Spartan Stadium press box were the best in the Big Ten.
The 1966 Rose Bowl committee gave me a basket load of bling and a crate of California Oranges delivered to my apartment in Lansing when I covered the MSU band performing at the game. In fact, it wasn’t until about 2003 that I sat in the stands for the very first time at a football game in Bronco Stadium.
By the time I was 18 I had established a local news bureau at Lansing City Hall for the Detroit Free Press which included a desk, phone, and basement parking spot–thanks to a local mayor seeking re-election. Working as a photographer for UPI during those days when Mitt Romney’s dad, Gov. George Romney, ran Michigan I had a parking spot at the Capitol and 24 hour access to the UPI office at the legislature.
When he ran for President two years later, Romney invited me to dine with him and Ambassador Bunker on Christmas Eve 1967 at the embassy in Saigon…another thrill for a 20 year old GI.
I still have one of the cigars and two bottles of rum (both empty now) which Fidel gave me and other media visitors. Also I’ll wager I am the only guy in Boise with Fidel Castro’s business card.
The point of all this is that members of the media get plenty of perks–just look at the Bronco Football press box and the luxury booths for media reporting…or the free digs provided at the Idaho Legislature. None of it comes without a price.
There is a very strongly implied message that you are expected to root for the home team, not piss off the host, give the politicos you see each day a break, and keep your mouth shut to establish “trust” among your news sources. The GUARDIAN is banned from even receiving press releases and is NEVER invited to press announcements by either Boise PD or the office of the Mayor.
Which brings us to the present day situation.
The Idaho Legislative Council–the outfit that runs the nuts and bolts of the lawmaking body–is at a crossroads these days when it comes to media tenants. For an eternity the Associated Press and many of the print and electronic media outlets have been provided office space in the Statehouse at taxpayer expense. Lobbyists pay rent, but we think they should be evicted regardless of how much they pay.
Led by Republican House Speaker Lawrence Denney of Midvale, there is a growing skepticism about the media and whether or not members of the media should get free office space–“a “press room” or “media center.”
Denney told the Idaho Reporter.com, ““There is a public interest that they serve,” Denney explained, “but I don’t always see that they are always working in the public interest with their reporting or what they choose to report.”
Translate that to mean, “They better pay up or seek private digs.”
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