Journalists covering state responses to the coronavirus pandemic are hampered as officials reduce seating in briefing rooms, introduce unreliable technology and, in some cases, refuse real-time questions.
Governors have also seemingly used the crisis to retaliate for critical coverage, blocking access or reducing press pools to friendlier outlets. But some state governments have pivoted with more grace, using combinations of rotating press pools, video conferencing and call lines to protect media access during this unprecedented crisis.
In Florida, Mary Ellen Klas, the Miami Herald’s Tallahassee bureau chief, requested that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ briefings be modified to allow for social distancing, a request later echoed in a letter signed by editors from seven local outlets.
When Klas, who also reports for the Tampa Bay Times, arrived at the capitol in Tallahassee on March 28, she was barred from attending the governor’s press briefing. A spokeswoman for DeSantis told Klas it was because of her request.
“I asked for social distancing. I didn’t ask to be excluded,” Klas told the Herald.
In an editorial, the Miami Herald dubbed the move “vindictive, petty — and illegal.” —US Press Freedom Tracker