St. Joseph resident Harry Roberts is running for the Missouri State Senate seat in the 34th District, which would represent Platte and Buchanan counties.
Roberts was in Parkville on Saturday, April 14, at the Spring for Victory event for Republican candidates at Park Place. The Platte County Republican Central Committee ran an ad in this paper on March 28, promoting the event.
Tickets cost $10 and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft was the keynote speaker. Prior to the event, it was learned Gov. Eric Greitens would be in attendance as well.
I reached out to cover the event but was told I was only going to be allowed in if I bought a ticket as there would be no press passes issued. I found this a bit odd, but I made the decision to not attend.
I’ve been writing for 18 years and as a member of the press my job is to cover news events when they happen. So, yes the secretary of state coming to town is news. I covered Ashcroft when he came to Maryville to talk about the new voter ID law. When the governor was in Riverside earlier this year, we were there covering it.
So, why would I not be there when both were in the room?
I didn’t feel like I should pay to do my job of reporting the news. I was at peace with the decision but I made a call to Platte County Central Committee Chair Jim Rooney to find out why exactly the event was treated that way for the press.
I was curious when I saw a photo on Twitter by another local paper of the governor, but I shook it off, thinking he paid the money to go the event. More power to him.
But, as it turns out, the other paper in town was a ‘guest’ of the Platte County Republican Central Committee.
Vice chair Janet Stark noted the event was going to be closed to the media but at the last moment, the committee decided to invite the other paper. I inquired why one publication was given preferential treatment over another.
“We wanted as much (of the event) closed as possible,” Rooney said. “It came down to how the newspapers were viewed. If you are interested in sports and other things, you pull The Citizen. If you are interested in the political side, you look to The Landmark.”
Then, I talked to Stark later in the day.
“Ivan’s paper is more conservative for Platte County and we asked him to cover it,” she said. “The Platte County Citizen in the past has been less leaning (toward conservative).”
So, when I talked to Harry Roberts on Monday to ask him how the event went? He said not one person from the media came up to talk to him to get any kind of information about him and his campaign, or even his thoughts on the event.
Only one media member was allowed inside — though KMBC 41 had a TV truck outside of the event.
“I was not aware only one media outlet was invited to the Spring to Victory event,” Roberts said. “I think everybody should be transparent. I think the media should be able to go, they have to right to go to stories where they are.”
Even Tony Luetkemeyer was unaware of the ‘one-media member’ quota for the Parkville event — his hometown.
“As a candidate, I would have preferred more media outlets being there,” he said. “Having more coverage would have provided me a greater opportunity to reach more voters with my message of creating more good jobs, keeping taxes low, and fighting for safer communities and our conservative principles.”
I was a little bit dumbfounded for a few reasons on the Republican Committee’s decision.
One, I’ve been here for only a few months and I haven’t even meet Mr. Rooney or Mrs. Stark, but they made the decision about the paper I run.
But honestly, I’ll pass when it comes to becoming a paper that is labeled as liberal or conservative. I’d rather just run a paper that writes the news and lets the reader make their own determination.
I generally do more sports stories than news stories here due to the demand — I guess what this paper is to some, right? — but I have dipped my toes into campaign stories. I have written features on both Luetkemeyer and Roberts — both Republicans vying for the 34th District Senate seat.
Apparently, no one at the Republican Central Committee saw that or, I guess, didn’t bother to read it since The Citizen isn’t the ‘official voice’ of the Republicans in the county.
Rooney said it was his decision to invite Ivan — nothing against Ivan, more power to him for getting in. My issue lies in the fact it should’ve been open to all the media or none of the media.
There is nothing like controlling your message and limiting access by allowing only one person into the event. I was told they didn’t want it to become a ‘media circus’ and that is why only one was allowed in.
You know, if the governor is in town, it is usually a media circus because governors don’t often visit small towns. It may be even more of a circus when said governor is facing criminal charges for allegedly taking photos of his mistress and trying to blackmail her. I’m sure if the media was allowed access that questions would’ve been asked — but, not answered — but good job by the local Republicans to shield the embattled governor.
Heck, the governor even got a standing ovation in both Parkville and St. Joseph during his weekend trip. He still has fans and still has supporters despite cheating on his wife, at the very least. I’m not here to slam the governor on what he did before he was in office; other politicians have dirty deeds in their closet as well.
I would’ve asked that question to Rooney about the standing ovation when we talked on Monday and why he thought it happened. But, I couldn’t get over the fact how only the Republicans are playing favorites when it comes to the media in this county.
It’s not right here. It wouldn’t be right anywhere.
Cody Thorn is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_CodyT.