The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association are trying to learn more about Pittsburgh Public Schools’ media relations practices and policies following reports that the district has been holding invitation-only press conferences and curating preferred media contact lists.
In a March 30 letter to the district’s communications director, Ebony Pugh, the Reporters Committee and PNA write that the measures detailed in news reports raise significant First Amendment concerns. As a government actor, Pittsburgh Public Schools has a constitutional duty to remain content-neutral when dealing with the press.
“The school district cannot make media access decisions based on the content of news coverage, media organizations’ interaction with school district officials, or the school district’s perception thereof,” the letter states. “Such action would amount to unconstitutional content-based restrictions on First Amendment activity.”