Do Arizona Journalists Have To Show Their Papers?

April 13, 2016

Access to legislatures is critical to journalistic coverage of government — at least if government is to be accountable and democratic. So it caused a stir when Arizona House Speaker David Gowan (R) banned reporters from the floor unless they passed extensive background checks.

Gowan had become upset when an Arizona Capitol Times reporter revealed in a story that Gowan had misused some $12,000 in state travel money. He used his power as speaker to require reporters pass background checks — using standards that would have disqualified the reporter who did the travel-money story. Before getting credentials, reporters would have checks run on their driving records, prior addresses, civil judgments, and criminal records. The standards specifically mentioned a check for trespassing charges within the past five years. The reporter, Hank Stephenson, had pleaded guilty to a Class 2 trespassing misdemeanor in 2014.

In an April 7 Tweet, Stephenson said it was the third time Gowan had tried to kick him out of the capitol — an effort that started the day after the embarrassing story ran.

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