(Updated with video 2:59 p.m.) Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano didn’t apologize for banning a reporter from the state convention, but he reneged on his decision to ban him Monday in a video posted on the party’s Facebook page.
In the video (see below) Romano invites Neil Vigdor of the Hearst newspaper chain to attend the convention at the Connecticut Convention Center.
“He will be credentialed,” Romano said. “I just needed to draw attention to what I felt was unfair coverage.”
“Our news organization has not been contacted by the state Republican Party since Neil Vigdor was informed his request for credentials was denied,” Barbara Roessner, managing editor of Hearst newspapers, said. “Our plan remains unchanged: Neil will provide intelligent, independent coverage of the convention in Hartford tonight. We will do our job with the utmost professionalism—with or without the permission of Mr. Romano.”
The decision to allow Vigdor to cover the event comes after a weekend of criticism from at least one leader of his own party and countless journalism and First Amendment groups.
“I disagree with the ban,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Monday. “We need to look for more not less transparency in the operation of government. Banning reporters is not a way to achieve that goal.”
Paul Singley, president of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists, said there are numerous ways for Romano and the party to state their disapproval of articles by submitting a letter to the editor or using social media.
“But stopping a journalist from doing his job on behalf of thousands of readers borders on dictatorship and is clearly something that cannot be tolerated in a country that enjoys a free press,” Singley said.
Romano’s decision to backtrack his original decision comes on the same day that the New York Times reported North Korea banned a BBC reporting crew for what it deemed a disrespectful portrayal of that country. When confronted with the information, Romano said he didn’t ban Hearst or the CT Post, just that one reporter.
However, “as expected, the move has backfired. The narrative of the convention in news reports and on social media is now shaped by the personal attacks on the reporter rather than on the content of the state GOP’s message to voters,” Rich Hanley, associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University, said.
Romano admitted in his video invite that his decision to deny credentials to one member of the media caused controversy.