Thursday, August 14, 2008

Prez Debates: Reporters Waive Dispute Rights

Tomorrow is the the deadline for journalists to apply to the presidential debate commission for credential to cover the debates in the fall between Obama and McCain. The commission's web page for the application process seems pretty standard for this kind of historic event. Submit your name, Social Security number, list your media outlet, etc.

But the commission also imposes this disturbing condition:

The applicant waives his or her right to dispute or appeal the denial or revocation of credentials.

I have many issues of contention with the debate commission, starting with being controlled by DNC and RNC leaders, funded by corporations, and lacking in transparency in how it operates and arrives at its decisions. Oh, and it also keeps out third and independent candidates, unless, like in 1992 with Ross Perot, they've got lots of bucks to buy their way into the debates.

Seeing that reporters must give up some basic rights if they're denied credentials, makes me queasy about who and how the national debates for presidential candidates will be conducted. Is it old-fashioned of me, to think journalists should be able to dispute a decision by the commission?

To further drive home the point that the commission is above appeal or reproach, or needs to be fully accountable to the press and public, the commission gives itself the right to remain silent when questioned:

If you have any questions about your application please send your contact information and request to: We will reply to valid requests only and reserve the right to offer no explanation for security reasons.

Um,that's a bit draconian, in my view, and unworthy of American democracy. If reporters are to be turned down for credentials, I'd like the two major parties and the corporations controlling the debates to explain why and allow reporters to file appeals.

That isn't asking too much from a democratic institution running the debate show this fall.

1 comment:

Batocchio said...

"Security reasons"? Don't bother them, they're busy, out fighting crime!

Can we have the League of Women Voters back, or someone similar? The "debates," other than perhaps the one at NPR, were for the most part little more than joint press conferences.