Every decade or so, it seems, the City Council moves to close off the area behind the third-floor council chambers to easy access by reporters. Eventually it gets opened again when the pols remember, hey, it's useful to have quick encounters with reporters that don't require a full-on calendar appointment back in the office upstairs. A new inning in the game began today, when Council President Eric Garcetti unveiled new rules that cut into media access backstage. Rick Orlov has a report at the Sausage Factory, and KNX 1070 reporter Claudia Peschiutta describes the issue in an email to others in the press corps. (She's also a representative of the Society of Professional Jornalists chapter in L.A.) Her note is after the jump.
* 5:30 p.m. update: Looks like the crisis has been averted.
I'm writing to let you know about an effort underway at LA City Hall to limit media access to councilmembers. Garcetti, Perry and Zine have signed a letter to (as they say) 're-establish protocol standards for council meetings.' This includes requiring all reporters to be escorted by a sergeant-at-arms or staff member to access the media room behind chambers and requiring councilmembers to take themselves off the voting roll in order to step into the backroom and talk to reporters.
Here's how the rules played out today. Several reporters asked to speak to Garcetti about the rules. We waited in the media room. The door that leads from the media room to council chambers was locked. We made one of Garcetti's aides well aware of the fact we wanted to interview the council president. After waiting for more than half an hour, the aide told us Garcetti had to leave for a meeting and could not talk to us. When we asked to set up a time to speak with Garcetti, the aide said he did not know the council president's schedule.
As you can see, the new rules can easily be used to avoid reporters' questions. I'm working to set up a meeting with Garcetti, Perry and representatives of the media later this week. Please let me know if you'd like to participate. If you'd like to see a copy of the letter with the rules, please send me your fax number.