Politicians Expelling Journalists from Public Events Condemned as Democracy Disrespect

Politicians Expelling Journalists from Public Events Condemned as Democracy Disrespect

Sandra Fish, who used to work for us, was kicked out of the Colorado statewide GOP meeting over the weekend for doing her job. Sandra works for the Colorado Sun, a nonprofit news group that has a reputation for fair but harsh reporting that has caused problems with the head of the Colorado Republican Party. Her ejection made news across the country.

But before she worked for the Colorado Sun, Sandra worked for New Mexico In Depth from 2014 to 2017. There, she used her amazing data-gathering skills to write about tough topics like New Mexico’s less-than-ideal way of funding brick-and-mortar projects across the state, the flow of money in politics, and the role of lobbyists in making laws.

She is the only writer we know of who spent months going through contracts to find out how much money lobbyists working for New Mexico’s public institutions made over time: $7.2 million in 2014–15. Sandra couldn’t do the same digging to find out how much private companies spent on lobbyists because New Mexico’s transparency rules aren’t very strict. This lack of information makes it hard to know how much is really spent on lobbying in New Mexico.

That secret is still kept even after almost ten years.

Sandra is also partly to blame for the Legislature’s move a few years ago to finally say how much each state lawmaker spends on real-world projects. In 2015, she told the public that state law didn’t let that information be shared unless a politician agreed to let the public see how they personally spent public money.

During her three years with us, Sandra’s reporting made some elected and public leaders angry, and some of them complained. We didn’t find anything useful in the complaints because they were the kind that come with good, honest reporting. Sandra does hit hard, but she’s also fair.

So it caught me off guard when I heard this weekend that she had been kicked out of the Colorado GOP board. Most public and elected officials I’ve met in my decades as a writer know what’s going on: good reporters will always make them mad by writing about something they don’t want the public to know.

The head of the Colorado Republican Party doesn’t seem to be as tough-guy as most public officials I’ve met.

When political groups like the Colorado GOP fire media, it smells like fear of not being able to control the message. We’re not stenographers, we’re journalists. The powerful tell them what they should see and hear, but they are there to report what they see and hear.

It was reported this week that Sandra told Milan Simonich in his piece in the Santa Fe New Mexican, “My biggest worry about being removed is about our democracy.” Politicians and candidates for office only want their side of the story to be told.

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