Iowa Republicans in the State Senate are reportedly pushing to restrict access to journalists and reporters on the Senate floor. It's a move that would break from 140 years of traditional access to the media.
Critics say this is a freedom of speech and information issue to the public. GOP spokesperson Caleb Hunter said, in an email noted by KCCI, "the principle dilemma faced by the Senate is the evolving nature and definition of media."
What this change in policy actually does, and it will be in place for the 2022 legislative session that starts today, January 10, is not to bar journalists and reporters from covering the Senate altogether. It will restrict their proximity to the lawmakers themselves. Journalists will not be allowed on the Senate floor but will be required to cover the process from upstairs Senate galleries.
Hunter also said as a justification for this move
as non-traditional media outlets proliferate, it creates an increasingly difficult scenario for the Senate, as a governmental entity, to define the criteria of a media outlet. Delegating the ability to define “media” to another entity is ultimately still government action. For that reason media seating will remain in the designated areas in the galleries.
Meanwhile, Iowa Freedom of Information Council executive director Randy Evans spoke for those who oppose this, both for the freedom of the press and information aspects, stating as well that
Reporters who are sitting on the press bench can see the faces of legislators when debate is occurring. They can see the eye rolls or the head shakes. And if you're sitting in the gallery, you may see the backs of their heads.
He thinks the public is going to be less well-informed without that more intimate communication between reporter and legislator, and that the government will be held less accountable. Supporters think that type of up-close and personal access to where you can see and hear physical reactions allows more ability to form slanted reporting.
Time will tell how the change affects any of these aspects.