Scott, press corps battle over choosing reporters for pools

Posted Jan 27, 2011 by William March
The Rick Scott administration is at odds with the Tallahassee press corps over Scott’s wish to choose which reporters participate in cooperative coverage known as “pools.” According to an email to Florida editors today from Frank Denton, editor of the Jacksonville Times-Union, the Scott administration wants to be able to choose which reporters participate in pool coverage of events that aren’t open to the entire press corps. The press corps, however, thinks pool reporters should be chosen by a random rotation, and that the administration shouldn’t be allowed to limit coverage to reporters it considers “friendly.” Reporting pools are a routine practice for events or individuals attracting press coverage so heavy it presents a logistical problem. The White House, for example, routinely uses press pools to cover the president’s daily activities. Reporters are chosen by rotation off a list maintained by the press corps. Typically, a print reporter, radio reporter and television reporter will cover an event, then make their reporting available to all their competitors. The Scott administration, which shows signs of wanting to increase the number of events covered by pools, is saying it should be allowed to choose which reporters are in the pool. According to Denton’s email, the issue began when Scott’s office decided it needed to open a recent dinner with Scott and other legislators to press coverage. The event was planned as purely social, but would have violated the state open meetings law if there was any discussion of state business. Administration officials asked for the press corps to submit a list of five candidates for the pool, from which Scott’s staff would choose two. That proposal “was rejected out of hand,” Denton said, and the press corps offered a rotation list as an alternative, which Scott’s office rejected. Some reporters have suggested a compromise, allowing Scott officials to choose a pool reporter from a list of 10, with the stipulation that no one be chosen twice before all 10 have been chosen. In any case, Denton said, “We are unwilling to agree to any pool arrangement that lets administration officials choose reporters. ... Otherwise, we will cover these events independently.”

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