Journalists covering Mitt Romney’s election night party will have to pay for the privilege.
During national conventions, campaigns typically charge news organizations for use of electricity and Internet access, but instituting what is essentially a cover charge just for journalists to be admitted into the parties is a new move, reports Robert Rizzuto for MassLive.com.
Romney will hold his election night party at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
The Romney campaign cover charge appears to be hitting student journalists particularly hard, but is also likely to shut-out independent bloggers and smaller news organizations.
Michelle Johnson, associate professor of Multimedia Journalism at Boston University and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, said that a team of about 100 students had planned to cover election night festivities. The students learned Monday that in order to report on Romney’s party, they would have to pay $1,000 – that was after they received a special discount and reduced the number of student journalists assigned to the party.
Now only four student journalists will cover the Romney party, Johnson told Poynter by telephone.
“They say it’s a closed event, so our kids can’t get in with the regular BU News Service badge,” Johnson wrote on the NABJ listserv. “They have to also have official credentials, $250 a pop. So that would cost us $1,000 if we send all of the ones assigned to Romney. I know at least one local J-school that’s opted out. A shame for their students not to get the experience right here in their own backyard. Again, I can understand paying for electrical, place on the riser, etc. But having to pay just to get in?”
MassLive reported that access to Romney’s party will cost anywhere from “$75 for a chair in the ballroom to $1,020 for permission to use the media filing center.” Broadcast news organizations, Rizzuto writes, are paying up to $6,500 for workspace. Rizzuto writes that although President Barack Obama’s campaign is “charging for premiums, credentialed reporters are granted access, which includes a workstation, electrical power and a wireless Internet connection, at no cost.”
Obama’s election watch party will take place at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
Some professional journalists expressed outrage over the fees. They say charging for equipment use and space is one thing, but campaigns shouldn’t charge for admission.
Charging journalists to cover a story just isn’t right, said Bob Butler, Vice President of Broadcast for the National Association of Black Journalists. The fee will especially have a negative impact on journalists who cannot afford to pay, including students, Butler told Poynter by phone.
“We’re trying to teach student journalists that they don’t take money in exchange for doing stories, yet that’s exactly what the Romney campaign is doing,” he added. “The Romney campaign has raised $881.8 million and spent $752.3 million. According to The New York Times, the campaign has $193 million on hand. I find it hard to believe it has to charge reporters a fee to cover the costs of the election headquarters.”
Wayne Dawkins, a journalism professor at Virginia’s Hampton University and historian for NABJ, echoed Butler. “Journalism is an unlicensed endeavor,” he said. “It’s ironic that team Romney is charging in Boston where journalism practice [Publick Occurrences] is 322 years old, older than the U.S.A.”
Poynter senior faculty member Al Tompkins said the Obama campaign’s offer to provide credentialed journalists with free workstations, electrical power and wifi is also wrong.
“Paying the expenses a campaign incurs on your behalf is normal, routine,” Tompkins said by telephone. “It is equally as problematic for journalists to take free stuff from the campaigns.”