Thursday, February 15, 2007

ACTION ALERT: Help a reporter find Real History on Capitol Hill

David Sirota is one of the strongest progressive voices we have in journalism. He is a Senior Editor for In These Times magazine as well as a regular contributor to Working Assets' "Working For Change" site. He has appeared on CNN and The Colbert Report.

For those of you who are already up on this issue, skip to the bottom for the call to action. You can help Sirota get press credentials by taking the actions requested below. If the name or incident is not familiar to you, read on.

Sirota is currently writing a book about some first-term Senators, including his former boss, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sirota asked to get media credentials to Capitol Hill to pursue his research [UPDATE - his research for In These Times - not his book]. But the press galleries turned down his request.

Mary Ann Akers discussed this episode in a recent entry in her blog "The Sleuth" on the Washington Post site:

According to the gallery rules, "Persons eligible for admission to the Periodical Press Galleries must be bona fide resident correspondents of reputable standing, giving their chief attention to the gathering and reporting of news."

The Executive Committee of the Periodical Correspondents' Association, which is comprised of credentialed journalists, felt that Sirota's chief intention is not to the gathering of news but to the advancement of Democratic causes and candidates.

[...] It is also the policy of the House and Senate periodical galleries not to accredit people who seek press credentials for the purpose of writing a book, according to Woellert. Employed, credentialed journalists may write books and use their press passes to gain access in the process, but non-credentialed people who apply for press passes for the sole purpose of writing a book are turned down as a matter of policy.

But... but... Sirota is a journalist! He's just apparently not one the "mainstream" has vetted and anointed. He hasn't proven willing to hide national security secrets, or cave on important stories. He hasn't promised to keep his politics out of his writing (like Tim Russert and Bill O'Reilly and Pat Buchanan do, right?) Never mind that "Jeff Gannon" (James Guckert), a male prostitute, was given press credentials so that he could throw George Bush this softball question:

Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy: Harry Reid, who's talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. You've said you're going to reach out to these people. How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

Regarding Sirota, Akers quotes Jeff Weaver, the Chief of Staff from Sen. Sanders's office:

"He was refused on some pretty unjustifiable grounds -- that he was a political partisan," Weaver said, pointing out that the periodical press galleries have issued credentials to the likes of Weekly Standard columnist Fred Barnes. "Fred Barnes has credentials, he espouses political views."

"My concern is that partisans of a certain stripe, people don't have a problem with them. Of another, they do," Weaver said. He added that the whole process of smacks of insider favoritism and elitism and "raises serious questions" about whether journalists should be deciding who gets in the club.

Akers then asked Barnes what he thought. While Barnes said his background as a longtime reporter for the Washington Evening Star, the Baltimore Sun, the New Republic, and the Weekly Standard put in him a different league from Sirota, whose background is more centered in political activism, Akers noted:

Barnes was quick to say he believes the press galleries ought to give Sirota credentials to cover Congress. "I think their rules shouldn't be so cramped that they can't make accommodations for people like Sirota. Even if he is an activist. In this case, he's a journalist writing a book."

Bottom line, Barnes said, "I think [the press galleries] ought to be broad minded about this rather than restrictive."


Here are three things you can do TODAY to help Sirota get a press pass:

1. Email the Press Gallery ( and ask them to give him a pass.

2. Write to Speaker Pelosi ( and ask her to help. Send her a copy of your email to the press gallery (copy and paste into the form on this page).

3. Make your voice heard at the Washington Post blog where this issue is being discussed.

Thank you for helping to ensure access to those who are writing history.


Blogger Morgan Wolf said...

Hi Lisa,

Good work and a great cause!

FYI: I put up a link at Morgan's Musings to call attention to your efforts supporting David Sirota. I also sent your link to a number of progressive friends.

Be well,

1:58 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

You're a gem, Morgan. Thanks so much for your own life of activism!

4:20 PM  
Blogger Jewels1 said...

Hi Lisa,

Morgan directed me to your blog; specifically this post. I have been-and will continue-taking action against the blatant cronyism and partisanship on Capitol Hill. It never seems to end, does it?

I, also, have a political blog-started out more personal, but the changes that have come about in America, and the World, became very alarming, and I switched my theme to current politics and scandals. Which are also rampant, as I am sure you are aware.

I am very vocal in protesting the war-machine and the warmongers who run it. I despise this 'Blood for Oil' campaign.

Great blog, and I will visit again, soon!

(I would like to print the link to this story on my blog...?)


4:36 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Hi, Jewels! Welcome, and thanks for the comments.

You're always welcome to put up links to this blog. The more publicity for this issue, the better.

I'll have to pop over and check out your blog as well. I'm glad to see so many activists across the blogosphere. I feel the time for just talking about problems is long past. We need to engage in united campaigns wherever possible to effect positive change in our world.

Thanks again for coming by, and thanks again, Morgan, for driving more traffic my way!

7:52 AM  

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