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Media decries blackout imposed after Thurmond collapses

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Newsgathering         Oct 9, 2001    

Media decries blackout imposed after Thurmond collapses

  • Capitol Police and Senate officials said they ordered a temporary blackout to give medical personnel access to Sen. Strom Thurmond after he became ill.

Journalists decried a temporary blackout imposed by U.S. Senate officials and Capitol Police after Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) collapsed on the Senate floor on Oct. 2.

Police shuttered the viewing galleries, turned off television cameras controlled by the Senate and established a security perimeter, forcing reporters to leave the second floor hallways and restricting movement in the East Front Plaza.

“It concerns me when you have a potentially huge news story unfold on the floor of the Senate, and the press has no access,” Curt Anderson, an Associated Press reporter told Roll Call magazine.

Other journalists expressed similar concerns about government officials having control over access to images from the Senate floor. During the 20 minutes it took for medical personnel to escort Thurmond out of the building and into an ambulance, there were no visual images coming from the Senate floor.

Brian Lamb, chairman and CEO of C-SPAN, told Roll Call: “It gives you an example why it is problematic when the government controls cameras for an event.” C-SPAN’s video of Congress comes from cameras controlled by congressional employees.

A spokesman for the Capitol police said the gallery was cleared to set up a perimeter for medical personnel. Thurmond, suffering from dehydration, returned to work the next day.


© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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