What happened to Idaho journalists on Thursday should never happen again

Dear media: Next time Lt. Gov.  Janice McGeachin calls a presser and says, “No questions,” please pack up and go home.

What happened to journalists on Thursday at an Ammon elementary school should never happen again.

McGeachin called a “press conference,” summoning journalists from across the state to gather “to hear the truth about our legal issues with the media.” But when the event began, McGeachin’s attorney announced that no questions would be taken.

I know I can speak on behalf of countless Idahoans when I say, kudos to you, our Idaho journalists, for even showing up to such a charade. We imagine that you did so because you genuinely value the important purpose of journalism and felt an obligation to report the news of the day to us, your readers.

But please, dear media, do us a favor. If any elected official calls a “press conference” with the sole purpose of berating you or anyone else, and especially if she or he refuses to answer any questions about it — you have our blessing — please pack up and go home. Journalists should not have to stand there while an elected official pontificates and essentially dictates, “Report what I say or nothing at all.”

We respect you more than that. We know that without questions, there is no journalism. The freedom of the press, protected by the First Amendment, is an essential American value. Especially in today’s age, we rely on journalists to keep us informed while we make ends meet for our families.

McGeachin’s press conference seemed to be a deliberate attempt to stoke division and distrust between the media and the public. Until her heroine efforts were thwarted by a judge’s order, McGeachin asserted that she alone had protected the public from the media. She said the media would have doxxed anyone who attempted to contribute to her task force discussion. Her accusations were offensive and completely unjust. There is absolutely zero evidence that any member of the Idaho media has ever done such a thing. That kind of fear mongering, without a shred of evidence, is reprehensible.

The bottom line is, McGeachin broke the law when she refused to release public records. She still refuses to acknowledge that she did anything wrong, despite District Judge Hippler’s lengthy admonishment.

The court’s ruling united us, the media and the public, in victory. We remain united in requiring transparency in government. We are also united in ensuring our government respects our Constitutional right to a free press. We refuse to allow any elected official to dictate what will be reported in the press.

While your high standard of professionalism and your desire to report the news of the day may have made you feel obligated to stand there and listen, please don’t feel obligated to accept such foul treatment from Lt. Gov. McGeachin or anyone else.

Holly Cook

Holly Cook

Holly Cook has been a communications professional for over 15 years. She is the President of Cook Communications and Public Relations in Boise.

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