Contacts: Al Cross, SPJ president-elect, 502/875-5136 or email@example.com; Ray Marcano, SPJ president, 937/225-2323 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Jim Gray, SPJ executive director, 317/927-8000 or email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS - The leadership of the U.S. Senate today backed away from plans to take over space currently allocated to the Periodical and Photographic press galleries, after hearing the protests of a coalition of leading journalism organizations, led by the Society of Professional Journalists.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.Dak.) today announced that the plans to consolidate the periodical and photographic galleries with the already overcrowded broadcast outlets, wire services and daily newspaper gallery would be abandoned.
As part of the reorganization plan when the Democrats took control of the Senate, the Senate secretary's office had planned to take over rooms on the third floor of the Capitol where magazine writers, photographers, and many other reporters headquarter themselves.
"We've made the decision to keep people exactly where they are," Daschle said at his daily news conference.
"It was clear from the beginning that moving the press was a bad idea," said Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. "We're pleased the new Senate leadership listened to our concerns and decided to leave things as they have been for decades." Anderson chairs the Standing Committee of Correspondents in the Capitol, a group that oversees conduct of the galleries and issues credentials for reporters.
Anderson said the protest of SPJ and other major journalism organizations "was a major factor in helping us make our case." The coalition included the Associated Press Managing Editors, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the National Newspaper Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Education Writers Association. Other media-related organizations issued their own statements later.
"We are grateful that the Senate leadership listened to the coalition of journalism organizations and acceded to our request to be allowed to continue in our gallery space," said Al Cross, president-elect of SPJ and political writer for The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal.
"Sometimes journalists are obliged to become actors in public events to uphold the Constitutional principles that underlie our democracy," Cross said, "and this was one of them." Cross also expressed gratitude to the other organizations that joined SPJ in the effort.
The coalition pointed out the consolidation would have the greatest impact on news organizations that do not have a regular or permanent presence in Washington, those that do not have designated space in the galleries. SPJ and its partners asserted that this would erode the quality of the news reports that millions of Americans receive about their representatives in Washington.