NEWS FLASH: Rogue Transportation Commissioner has a thin skin
TxDOT declines CorridorWatch.org application for media credentials to report on the Texas Transportation Forum.
JUNE 2, 2006
David Stall has written as a freelance reporter for many years. He was issued his first Press Credentials by the Harris County Sheriff's Department under Sheriff Jack Heard in 1976. Additionally his photographs have routinely appeared in more than a half-dozen daily and weekly newspapers across Texas.
Over the last three years Stall has reported on numerous meetings and events such as the Texas Transportation Summit in Irving (now being boycotted by TxDOT). While covering transportation issues Stall has worked along side journalists from Time Magazine, The New Yorker, Dallas Morning News, San Antonio Express News, Houston Chronicle and the Fort Worth Star Telegram, just to name a few.
In response to a recent request for media credentials for Stall to cover the Texas Transportation Forum (sponsored by TxDOT) CorridorWatch.org was notified that "applications for media credentials are being accepted only for mainstream news media." In the message from TxDOT Public Information Director Randall Dillard, Stall was told Friday (6/1/06) via e-mail that he could attend the forum by paying the non-governmental rate ($330.00) at the door.
This is the first time Stall has ever been denied media credentials to cover a transportation function.
The TxDOT rebuff tends to indicate that CorridorWatch.org is somehow fringe, illegitimate, or perhaps without readership. Yet TxDOT routinely credits us with improving public attendance and participation in their own public meetings. The Texas Transportation Commission appointed CorridorWatch.org founder Linda Stall to the Trans Texas Corridor Citizen's Advisory Committee, a position she still holds. David Stall and TxDOT Turnpike Authority Director Phillip Russell have appeared on NBC television affiliate KCEN together to discuss the TTC. And, certainly Randall Dillard knows who Stall is as they have appeared as radio guests together to discuss the same topic.
Oh sure, CorridorWatch.org isn’t network television, nor are we major print or radio. But, we do publish an Internet newsletter with thousands of subscribers who are particularly interested in Texas transportation issues.
We are a recognized Internet publisher.
Additionally, Stall has written a number of articles for CorridorWatch.org that have been published in periodicals ranging from association newsletters and community newspapers to national magazines. One such guest article appears in the August 2005 issue of Robb Report’s Worth Magazine.
This is a state sponsored forum, hosted by a state agency; with many speakers that are fulltime public agency employees. Accordingly, we believe that there is a greater responsibility to allow for openness and public disclosure. Is this action by TxDOT an attempt to discourage CorridorWatch.org from reporting on their new forum? Is it perhaps their goal to suppress critical coverage? We think so.
The harsh reality is that TxDOT knows that CorridorWatch.org isn’t a fan of the Trans Texas Corridor. Under the leadership of Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson TxDOT has been directed to squash opinions not shared by the Commission and Department. Chairman Williamson was very direct when he said that the Texas Transportation Summit organizer (David Dean) was working at cross-purposes to TxDOT in consulting for the River of Trade Corridor Coalition. As a direct result, and at Williamson's direction, TxDOT has boycotted the state’s largest and best established transportation forum (sponsored by local government) and now created their own. [ BACKGROUND ]
We believe that the information TxDOT shares at their $300 per person forum is of significant public interest and should be widely and freely reported. CorridorWatch.org newsletter readers are uniquely interested and should have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a free press.
CorridorWatch.org has a larger readership than many community papers and perhaps other newsletter and trade organizations being granted media credentials by TxDOT. I believe it's a serious threat to freedom of the press to exclude the reporter from any publisher, even an Internet publisher, if such is based on their critical perspective.
TxDOT should not deny CorridorWatch.org media access to report on this important forum.
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