Washington

C-SPAN to Journalists: How About Some Gridiron Transparency?

Dinner has been off-limits to cameras, and only last year allowed the White House press corp. to provide a pool report of the festivities afterward 3/23/2012 12:32:05 PM Eastern

C-SPAN Thursday renewed its
annual request to cover the March 24 Gridiron Dinner, at which Washington journalists and
political figures hobnob amidst satirical skits, self-deprecating speeches, and
usually some standup from the President.

The
Gridiron Club is made up of print, and more recently broadcast, journalists.

The
dinner has been off-limits to cameras, and only last year allowed the White
House press corp. to provide a pool report of the festivities after the fact --
no tweeting and or blogging or filing by reporters is allowed during the event.

C-SPAN offered to tape the
event and air it ex post facto, suggesting that was in keeping with the policy
of allowing reports on the "on the record" dinner after it is over.
"We request that the Gridiron Executive Committee, under your leadership,
takes the historic step of allowing C-SPAN to cover your 2012
dinner under the same conditions as the print press," wrote Terry Murphy,
VP and executive producer of C-SPAN. "If this request
is granted, we'd agree to be the pool and share our video with other news
organizations."

Washington
Journalists join the Supreme Court in, so far, denying C-SPAN live access to their
proceedings, though the court request lacks the irony of an organization made
up of journalists preventing journalists from reporting live on an event that
is billed as on the record.

Below
is full text of the letter:

March 22,
2012

Mr. George Condon
President
Grid Iron Club

Washington, DC

Dear President Condon:

As journalists, we all applaud when
organizations move to become more transparent.  Therefore, it was welcome
news last year when the Gridiron Club's Executive Committee announced they
would begin allowing a White House pool report to be distributed after the
dinner, when the President was in attendance.  

As we have done year after year, C-SPAN requests
you go even further in those efforts to be transparent and allow our cameras to
cover your dinner.  In her response to our request last year, then
President Susan Page explained that the dinner is "ON THE RECORD" but you ask
that "all reporters in attendance refrain from filing, blogging or tweeting
during the dinner itself.  However, once it is over reporters are free to
write about it."

If the Executive Committee is still
reluctant to allow the electronic media to cover your dinner live, why not
allow us to operate under the same rules as print reporters and record your
dinner for playback after it concludes? Having one set of rules for print
organizations and another for television and radio journalists seems
contradictory to what we all stand for - a free press.  Even the Supreme
Court next week, by releasing the audio of the oral arguments in the health
care case after they are heard, is allowing us to report on their work
immediately.  

The headline on Robert McCartney's column
in today's
Washington Post says it best - JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY IS ON THE LINE FOR
GRIDIRON CLUB.  We request that the Gridiron Executive Committee, under
your leadership, takes the historic step of allowing C-
SPAN to cover
your 2012 dinner under the same conditions as the print press.  If this
request is granted, we'd agree to be the pool and share our video with other
news organizations.  Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

Terry Murphy

Vice President and Executive Producer
C-
SPAN

September
October