The Journal Star and World-Herald stand with NOISE Omaha in its effort to be credentialed for the governor’s news briefings. The Ricketts administration has denied NOISE admission to the briefings because it deems NOISE “an advocacy organization funded by liberal donors. They are not a mainstream media outlet.”
While the rise of digital-only news operations in a rapidly changing media landscape creates new questions, and, indeed, not just anyone claiming to be media should be automatically admitted to news conferences, the implication is that anything Gov. Pete Ricketts deems to be advocacy — or liberal — can be barred.
That’s wrong, dangerous and smacks of authoritarianism.
NOISE, which stands for “North Omaha Information Support Everyone,” is a nonprofit news website founded two years ago to focus on coverage of Omaha’s minority communities. Its website, noiseomaha.com, says the organization’s goal is to “do community-based journalism that provides useful information and holds representatives and systems accountable ...”
This is not wildly different, at all, from our mission as legacy newspapers deemed to be mainstream media. It’s a proper, and traditional, journalism mission.
NOISE is but one example of the 21st-century kaleidoscope of digital media operations, many of which focus on specific interests. Publications and websites have long existed to serve such audiences — business journals, agriculture magazines and travel websites among them. Would the governor’s office grant credentials to Ethanol Today magazine, which exists to be an advocate?
Among the many problems with the Ricketts administration’s position is that it has no written criteria, no formal policy, for determining who gets media credentials.
NOISE is a journalistic organization on its face. Its home page features straightforward stories on topics such as the upcoming investigation of St. Francis Ministries’ contract for child welfare case management in Douglas and Sarpy counties, Asian Americans’ concerns about hate crimes and the shooting of an Omaha police officer last month at Westroads Mall. The stories do not by any stretch advocate for any position.
And Taylor Gage, the governor’s spokesman, acknowledges that the ban “has nothing to do with the issues they’re covering.”
He said the problem is evident in the organization’s name and “how they position themselves.”
Oh, and those liberal donors.
NOISE is supported by organizations including the Omaha Community Foundation, the Hitchcock Family Foundation (started by The World-Herald’s founder) and the Sherwood Foundation, founded by Susie Buffett.
The Ricketts administration’s denial of credentials to NOISE must be seen for what it is: politics, pure and simple.
Lincoln Journal Star