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Statehouse reporters to Speaker Madigan: Lift unnecessary session coverage restrictions

Tuesday, Jan 5, 2021

* From the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association

January 5, 2021
Speaker Michael Madigan Illinois House of Representatives 300 Capitol Building Springfield, Illinois 62706
CC: Jessica Basham
Steve Brown
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin

Speaker Madigan,

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.

Sincerely,

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

17 Comments
  1. - Just Me 2 - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 10:28 am:

    COVID is just the public excuse, not the real reason, for these limitations. The Speaker would prefer House members not be asked difficult questions on the record.


  2. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 10:31 am:

    I suggest a compromise: We allow the journalists to attend the upcoming session in the Bank of Springfield Center, but not the legislators.

    – MrJM


  3. - CCapilla - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 10:50 am:

    MrJM’s suggestion is far too dangerous to consider as it runs a heightened risk of accomplishing something.


  4. - Amalia - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 10:54 am:

    Thank you for fighting to get access so you can give information for all of us.


  5. - A Guy - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 10:56 am:

    Ban the press in a 40K sf room? Yeah, for safety.

    Out of curiosity, how big does a room need to be to ensure safety and that little nuisance called monitoring the public’s business?


  6. - Terry Deering RIP - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 10:59 am:

    No Chicago Tribune reporter could be bothered to sign this? I am glad I cancelled my subscription.


  7. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 11:01 am:

    A Guy -

    Depends upon the HVAC system.


  8. - Earnest - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 11:06 am:

    Disagree with COVID restrictions and write a well-reasoned response with very thoughtful recommendations to resolve potential concerns? Who does that in this day and age? /s


  9. - Chatham Resident - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 11:07 am:

    ==No Chicago Tribune reporter could be bothered to sign this? ==

    And no one from Channel 20 either. Not even Matt Roy, who has seemed to serve as “statehouse reporter” of late.

    Then again, no one from 17; Channel 3 and other Nexstar stations statewide are covered by Mr. Maxwell.

    Also, isn’t the Chad Mahoney from Quincy Media the same one who used to be on Channel 20? During the peak of Blago and around the time of the station’s NBC-to-ABC affiliation switch (2005).


  10. - Charlie Wheeler - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 11:31 am:

    As a long-time member of the Statehouse press corps and a former president of the ILCA, I wholeheartedly support the request for greater news media access to the House’s upcoming sessions. The safety measures the ILCA proposes are appropriate to the circumstances and would allow more thorough coverage while following pandemic protocols and safeguarding everyone’s health. We are the eyes and ears of the public, and a well-informed citizenry is especially important in these challenging times.

    Sincerely,

    Charlie Wheeler


  11. - Unionman - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 11:40 am:

    Its sad when we have more access to the Bulls locker room than to the Statehouse.
    Do I hear a lawsuit coming?


  12. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 11:43 am:

    If the GA can meet on a 40,000 sq. ft. floor, the statehouse press corps should be able to do their jobs well within covid parameters in that space.


  13. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 11:53 am:

    Sports reporters have made do and so can you


  14. - Todd - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 12:55 pm:

    there should also be accommodations for people and groups even lobsters to testify in person on bills for the give and take that is petition the government for redress of grievances.

    Otherwise, yea a lawsuit would be interesting


  15. - Intheknow - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 1:07 pm:

    Without Amy Jacobson’s name attached, this list is incomplete.


  16. - Bear3 - Tuesday, Jan 5, 21 @ 5:06 pm:

    People are leaving IL because of all the detailed reporting required as passed by the State. You have to devote a bunch of time to satisfy the information required to satisfy the elected and their constituent. This is not fair or needed and just bowing to all the crap requirement instead of reducing the cost of government and having more money for actual programs.


  17. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 6, 21 @ 12:00 am:

    ===Sports reporters===

    lol

    Moron.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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