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RTNDA to Scalia: Let Us in!

The Radio-Television News Directors Association Monday asked Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to stop excluding electronic journalists from his public appearances.

The letter to Scalia, from RTNDA President Barbara Cochran on behalf of the association's 3,000-plus members, was prompted by an incident last week in which a federal marshal guarding Scalia erased tape recordings two Mississippi print reporters made of his speech to a Hattiesburg high school. Scalia has long barred electronic recording devices from his public appearances.

Scalia has since apologized and Monday said he would now allow print reporters to use recorders to check the accuracy of their stories.

RTNDA, which strongly protested the Federal Marshal's actions last week, praised the apology. But Cochran suggested that radio and TV reporters "should be just as accurate."

"I am deeply disturbed by your decision, disclosed today, to allow newspaper reporters to use their electronic recording devices while continuing to prohibit television and radio journalists from using theirs," she wrote. "Your policy of excluding electronic media from your public appearances has been extremely troubling to our members for years, but this decision compels us to protest in the strongest possible terms."

Scalia was criticized by journalists in March 2003 when he received an award for his commitment to free speech at a Cleveland City Club Ceremony that was, at his request, closed to TV cameras. "The irony of excluding journalists from an event designed to celebrate the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech is obvious to all," protested Cochran at the time.