Blocking Access to Journalists at the Colorado Statehouse

Nonprofit online journalism site the Colorado Independent wants to cover the Statehouse in Denver — but a small committee of legacy media journalists and legislative leaders won’t let it.

The committee’s behavior has important First Amendment implications and raises concerns for new journalism startups nationwide.

The Colorado Capitol Press Association, which advises legislative leaders on issuing press credentials, has denied permission for the Independent’s reporters to get statehouse credentials since it first applied in 2008.

We’ve seen similar issues arise at the federal level and in other states.

In a letter to legislative leaders, the Colorado Independent’s lawyer writes:

The notion that an online news organization which has committed more than one full-time correspondent to covering the State Capitol, and makes its reporting on the proceedings of the legislature available, free of charge, to five newspapers statewide, would be denied access to the floors of the Senate and House on equal footing with other members of the mainstream press is not only counter-sensical, but in all likelihood an unconstitutional abridgement of the freedom of the press.

The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition has the full story. We’ll be watching what happens in Colorado closely.

Cases like this inspired Free Press to partner last fall with Harvard’s Digital Media Law Project, the Investigative News Network, Journalists’ Resource, the National Press Photographers Association and the Nieman Journalism Lab to launch a national survey of media-credentialing laws and issues. The results of that survey are being compiled now.

Original photo courtesy of courts.state.co.us

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