January 5, 2021
Speaker Michael Madigan Illinois House of Representatives 300 Capitol Building Springfield, Illinois 62706
CC: Jessica Basham
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin
The protocols your office has distributed for the upcoming legislative session in the Bank of Springfield Center would impose unnecessary restrictions on the press and would impair our collective ability to accurately and thoroughly cover the proceedings of the Illinois General Assembly.
While we appreciate the steps your staff have taken to ensure workers’ safety during a pandemic, we assure you that the press, as essential workers, have also adapted our processes to protect ourselves and the subjects of our reporting. Some of these modifications include wearing face coverings at all times, carrying equipment that allows us to conduct interviews from a safe distance, and regularly sanitizing the equipment we carry with us.
In May 2020, the press organized a small pool rotation of reporters and relied on a lone TV camera to shoot footage of the legislative proceedings from one spot in the mezzanine of the Bank of Springfield Center. Not only does this limited access confine every reporter’s individual perspective to the images captured through one small lens, it also increases the likelihood that a single, routine technical difficulty could disrupt the entire Illinois press corps and sever its access to the legislature.
In addition, cold temperatures and inclement weather make it exceedingly unlikely for members of the General Assembly to address the media at socially distant press conferences outdoors as they did in the spring.
After observing the proceedings of the General Assembly in May, and reviewing the floor space at the Bank of Springfield Center, we believe there is ample space for a small section of reporters to work safely on either side of the arena.
For example, much like the current access provided to credentialed media in the House, a row of reporters could easily spread out six to eight feet apart from one another and would only require a small number of electrical outlets and one audio mult-box to cover the proceedings from the floor of the Bank of Springfield Center.
With the addition of one microphone set up ten feet away from the press pool, individual members or groups of legislators could address the media at their convenience, either during regular business, or before and after each session day. These arrangements would not only provide adequate access to the media, but would also provide an alternative indoor location for elected officials to stage press conference events without exposing reporters or legislators to any greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
In light of these factors, we ask you to consider revising the protocols to allow the press access to the perimeter of the House floor during the upcoming legislative session.
Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association Board Members
John O’Connor, ILCA President (Associated Press)
Lisa Yuscius, ILCA Vice President (Blue Room Stream)
Sarah Mansur, ILCA Secretary (Capitol News Illinois)
Hannah Meisel, ILCA Treasurer (NPR Illinois)
Dave Dahl, ILCA Board Member (WTAX News Radio)
Chad Mahoney, ILCA Board Member (Quincy Media)
ILCA Members and political reporters
Mary Ann Ahern, NBC Chicago
Dave McKinney, WBEZ
Dan Mihalopoulos, WBEZ
Rachel Hinton, Chicago Sun-Times
Amanda Vinicky, WTTW
Rich Miller, Capitol Fax
Dean Olsen, State Journal-Register
Mark Maxwell, Nexstar Illinois Capitol Bureau
Jeff Rogers, Capitol News Illinois
Jerry Nowicki, Capitol News Illinois
Cole Henke, Nexstar Illinois Capitol Bureau
Tony Yuscius, Blue Room Stream
Public Affairs Reporting Intern Class of 2021
Jason Piscia, Program Director
Moyo Adeolu, Nexstar Illinois Capitol Bureau
Ben Szalinksi, State Journal-Register
Christine Hatfield, WGLT and WCBU Radio
Tim Kirsininskis, Capitol News Illinois
Grace Barbic, Capitol News Illinois
Derek Cantu, NPR Illinois
The main floor of the BOS Center is 40,000 square feet. There’s more than enough space for us. This blanket ban on access cannot be continued. We need to do our jobs.