May 16th, 2010
Day 20: When diabetes leads to secrecy
By David Cuillier
So far: 13 states, 5,536 miles, 28 sessions, 443 people (see schedule)
Nashville, Tenn. — Odd how something like diabetes can cause a fuss over access.
Today (Sunday) I got a day of rest, and a chance to prep for my sessions Monday for the Middle-Tennessee SPJ pro chapter and then the Knoxville chapter. The big topic of discussion Monday in Nashville will be the brouhaha over a political reporter’s photos of a fainting lawmaker.
According to The Tennessean and Nashville Scene, House Speaker Kent Williams collapsed Thursday because he hadn’t had breakfast and suffered from low blood sugar from his diabetes. As people scrambled to see if he was OK (or alive), Associated Press reporter Erik Schelzig started taking pictures with his cell phone. Legislators apparently got angry and a trooper ordered him out.
Since then, a bill has been proposed by Rep. Joe Towns to ask the chair of the Capitol Hill Press Corps to revoke Schelzig’s press credentials. (see the bill, Resolution 371). The bill states Schelzig acted “without thought and good judgment in attempting to take photographs and thereby needlessly hindering emergency medical personnel from providing necessary medical care…” From the photo I saw he wasn’t hindering aid (it was a photo of everyone coming to Williams’ aid). What’s interesting is the chair of the press corps is Schelzig, so the resolution is more of a public poke than anything.
Towns’ resolution is outrageous. What else is a journalist going to do when a leader in our government keels over? It’s our job to document history as it unfolds. The public expects that. This was big news – it could have been a fatal heart attack for all these people knew.
Tip No. 23: Reporters often face attacks on access to places. For great guides on how to handle these situations, as well as the law in accessing police scenes and other locales, check out the Reporters Committee’s guides on access to places, their nice reporter’s field guide, as well as one on access to Indian reservations. SPJ has a guide on access to prisons. Know your rights, and your limitations!
Monday: I’ll do a lunch session for the Middle Tennessee pro chapter in Nashville, then drive to Knoxville for a night session with the East Tennessee pro chapter.