Reporters for the conservative Carolina Journal said they’ve been prevented from covering Gov. Roy Cooper’s news conferences, but a spokesman for the governor says any incident barring the paper was “an oversight.”
The publication is produced by the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Raleigh, and its editor says reporters have been allowed to attend news conferences under the previous governors, Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Bev Perdue.
“I’m hoping Gov. Cooper and his staff will let us cover the administration’s events as his predecessors did,” editor-in-chief Rick Henderson said Thursday. “We’re published by a nonprofit, of course, and as media markets change, more and more nonprofits will be doing basic reporting and analysis of government activities.”
A story in Carolina Journal’s January issue said reporters were not allowed inside a Dec. 15 news conference held to discuss the legislature’s special session. It says a Cooper spokeswoman did not respond to multiple emails requesting access and notice for future events.
Cooper spokesman Ford Porter told The News & Observer on Thursday that Carolina Journal reporters are allowed to attend the governor’s press conferences.
“Press events are open to credentialed media,” Porter said in an email. “If an outlet was denied access, it was an oversight. There is not a policy prohibiting media.”
But Henderson said his staff hasn’t received news releases about Cooper events as recently as Thursday morning, when the governor’s office informed the media of an 11 a.m. press conference announcing new cabinet secretaries. Henderson said Carolina Journal reporters learned about the event after it happened.
On several occasions, McCrory banned reporters from N.C. Policy Watch – which is part of the liberal N.C. Justice Center – from attending his events. Neither Policy Watch nor Carolina Journal receives press credentials through the Capital Press Corps, a group run by journalists that handles media access at the N.C. General Assembly. Still, their reporters routinely attend press conferences held by legislative leaders.
N.C. Policy Watch executive director Chris Fitzsimon says his reporters have had no trouble covering Cooper events.
“Our reporters have been admitted to the press conferences and I thought the Locke folks had been admitted too,” he said in an email. “We certainly support their right to be there and would be surprised if the Cooper staff intentionally did not allow them to attend.”