Big Apple Press-ure Cooker p.17

By: DOROTHY GIOBBE NEW YORK CITY'S press corps found themselves on the defensive again recently after a third journalist was banned from covering a news event in as many weeks.
In the latest incident, a New York Daily News reporter was barred from a press briefing held by the city's new police commissioner because of perceived "negativism" in the reporter's articles.
Veteran police reporter John Marzulli said that a police department official informed him that he was not welcome at a question-and- answer session with newly appointed commissioner Howard Safir. Safir apparently was angry at Marzulli for quoting a former department official who called Safir a "lightweight."
The Daily News reported the incident and criticized Safir's office in an editorial. Editor in chief Martin Dunn said, "It is not the place of a city official to dictate who covers the news. We will not be dictated to over who covers the news."
The New York Press Club took up Marzulli's cause, and in a letter to Safir "stongly condemned" the ban, and said that Safir had "violated long-established constitutional and legal principles."
The incident comes on the heels of the arrest of two New York City reporters who were trying to cover a fund-raising dinner for Gov. George Pataki. Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice and Andrea Bernstein of the New York Observer were arrested for trespassing at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, fined $250, and given a desk appearance ticket for later this month.
The press club also protested the arrests, labeling them a "shocking abuse of power" and a "violation of freedom of the press."
Pataki's spokeswoman, Zenia Mucha, would not apologize for the incident. In an interview with the New York Times, she justified the exclusion of the reporters to columnist Joyce Purnick, stating that private fund-raisers are not unusual and that the Voice and Observer are "hardly bastions of journalism."
Commenting on the two incidents, Gabe Pressman, reporter for WNBC-TV and first vice president of the press club said, "It's rather startling, these two incidents happening back-to-back. It's also dismaying that there isn't more of an outcry from journalists.
"If one reporter is barred, everyone should walk out," Pressman added. "In New York City, there's a long tradition of press freedom, and our rights and privileges have been hard won."
John Miller, a reporter for WNBC-TV and a former deputy commissioner for public information at the NYPD, said, "When I was in that position, we would never have barred a single reporter because of something he or she wrote that was critical or that displeased us, because that is de facto censorship, which is not the role of the government."
He added, "Also, if I was covering that for another newspaper, once they barred one of my colleagues, I would not have gone in, nor do I think that any of the reporters should have attended a briefing where one of them was singled out and excluded."


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