How the press can constrain freedom of speech!

An interesting dilemna arose at the Community Meeting on 2 June.  A reporter from the Post turned up and introduced himself saying that he’d be reporting on the meeting.  He added that he would also be blogging live.

As the meeting progressed Lori, the Chair, found that she was repeatedly asking the journalist not to blog on particularly sensitive issues.  Eventually the reporter pointed out that it was a public meeting and that he had a right to attend and report whatever he chose.  This made some members of the meeting quite anxious and they asked for the journalist to leave. He refused.

Historically we have always had very open discussions. These have been reported the next day by the Post which has obviously taken an overview on what is important, what isn’t and how much detail to include (given their own word limits). To date the reporting has been reasonably balanced and hasn’t caused any problems. The transition to live blogging however means that there is no time to step back and take an overview. Instead everything is reported verbatim irrespective of any wider context and whether it reflects the consensus and decision of the meeting. By virtue of it being blogged by official media, the account also acquires a gravitas that is somewhat greater than if it were tweets from one or more individuals.

Bizarrely we therefore found that the presence of the Post reporter was infringing upon free and open discussion.

In the end we decided to stop the meeting as the issue of reporting was getting in the way of the discussion that we needed to have.  Some people left, including the Post reporter.

A few minutes later we decided to have the second CAG community meeting of the day. Coincidentally there were some incomplete points on the agenda from our previous meeting so we were able to pick those up and make good progress.

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