INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists and 60 other journalism organizations have requested a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence to discuss access to government.
The coalition sent a letter Thursday to Trump and Pence, asking for a meeting or conference call to discuss:
• the ability of reporters to directly interact with government employees who are subject matter experts, rather than interacting with Public Information Officers (or having all conversations monitored by Public Information Officers);
• access to the activities of the President;
• and ensuring that the Federal Freedom of Information Act remains as strong as possible.
“We believe strongly that journalists are the eyes and ears of the citizens of the United States,” said SPJ National President Lynn Walsh. “The average American citizen does not have the time or resources to check up on elected officials to make sure they are running the country the way they should. It is up to journalists to help hold those in power accountable.”
This letter is the latest among several that were sent to the Obama administration, since at least 2013, regarding concerns about White House restrictions on photographers, transparency and public information officer restrictions.
The first letter, sent Nov. 21, 2013, addressed concerns regarding White House restrictions on photographers. The next letter, sent July 8, 2014, and a follow-up letter sent Aug. 5, 2014, regarding PIO and transparency issues were met with a response from the White House on Aug. 11, 2014, that the groups found unsatisfactory. This white paper and other articles also provide background on the issue.
“We urge you to publicly affirm your commitment to transparency, to issue an executive order prohibiting the restrictive public information policies that have been the status quo, and to engage in a public discussion with us about the Trump administration’s commitment to the free flow of information from the White House and all federal government, to the American people,” the latest letter states.
The groups hope that together, they and the Trump administration can improve the lines of communication between the White House and the press.