ACTION ALERT: Help a reporter find Real History on Capitol Hill
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask them to give him a pass.
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.