An offshoot of the Columbia Journalism Review takes note of Gov. Huckabee's decision to cut the Arkansas Times off from press services. CJR isn't too impressed.
CJR notes that the Balitmore Sun lost a court case in which it protested the governor of Maryland's orders that no interviews be given to a Sun columnist and reporter who had incurred his wrath. Important distinction: In ruling against the newspaper, one mitigating factor noted by the 4th U.S. Circut Court of Appeals decision was that the Sun's disfavored duo continued to receive news releases and press conference invitations. Those are specifically at issue here. We do not contest the governor's ability to extend such niceties as private interviews to those he chooses.
While the governor's office certainly has the right (or so it seems) to choose who does, and does not, receive press briefings and scheduling information, it's important to note that the governor serves at the discretion of the people, and his operation is funded by the tax dollars of the state's citizens.
CJR Daily contacted Stewart, the governor's spokeswoman, and asked why the Times was stricken from the list, to which she simply reiterated the statement she gave to the paper that they don't consider the Times a "legitimate news organization," since it describes itself as a "journal of politics and culture." Pretty weak stuff, that. She repeated the mantra when asked if there was a specific story or an angle of coverage the governor's office didn't agree with, and refused to divulge any other news organizations or citizens who receive email updates from the governor's press office.
Given the precedent set in Maryland, we're not sure what recourse (besides filing time-consuming FOI requests) the Times has, other than rallying its readers to pressure the governor's office to do the right thing, and make public information available to the public: in this case, the reporters of the Arkansas Times.