Texas governor blocks reporters from Twitter account
By GARY BAUMGARTEN
The relationship between reporters and politicians is often strained.
There should be a healthy adversarial atmosphere. One in which each respects the other. But also, one in which the journalist questions the politician.
Critical reporting is key to a free society. But sometimes, elected officials, don’t want the reporting to be too critical. They, after all, need to stand for re-election. And too many bad reviews in the press can thwart those aspirations.
The attempt to control the message goes back, probably, to the time of the first town criers. But it evolves, as does the means of getting the message out.
In nations where press freedoms are suppressed, alternative means of accomplishing this have been embraced. Social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, are prime avenues for getting at least a first look at what’s going on in these nations.
That’s why, when people rise up as they have in Egypt, Iran and Libya, the governments try to control the flow by impeding Internet access.
Governments, too, are embracing the technology to get their messages out. Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was the first in that position to release information via Twitter. But he wasn’t the only one in government using Twitter to get the message out.
In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry tries to influence the public perceptions of him, unfiltered by the news media, by tweeting. But sometimes, those pesky reporters get in the way anyway, by taking those messages and then writing stories about them.
Occasionally, since, unlike the 140 character missives fired off by the governor the reporters actually strive to get the other side, the stories are less flattering than Perry would like.
Of course, any reporter who is blocked can simply create another, anonymous, Twitter account to see what Perry has been up to.
We are in an age where technology makes transparency in government all the more possible. Citizens can now get virtual access to everything from court records to purchasing commuter parking lot permits without leaving their house or office for a trip to the courthouse or city hall.
Perry should be commended for using Twitter to get his message out. But he shouldn’t be trying to punish reporters who are not as kind to him as he would like by trying to limit their access to the message.
The behavior is childish. He’s the governor of Texas. An adult. He should start acting like it.