School board bars press coverage of Messinger talk
NEW YORK–The New York City Board of Education in late September banned the news media from covering a mayoral candidate’s campaign event held at a public school in Queens.
Ruth Messinger, the Democratic candidate for mayor, had planned to talk to a class of 26 middle school students while reporters and camera crews recorded the event. The day Messinger was to speak, however, the school’s principal received a memorandum from the board ordering him to keep members of the press out of the school.
Messinger’s talk on the importance of newspapers was only witnessed by the class and two print reporters who slipped in as security guards escorted a television crew outside.
The school’s principal, Perry Sandler, told The New York Times that the board’s order came as a complete surprise, and that this was the first instance of the board restricting press coverage at the school. He said media presence is so routine that parents are asked to sign waivers permitting their children to appear in news spots and articles.
The Messinger campaign blamed Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who has a close relationship with Board Chancellor Rudy Crew, for the ban.
“Of course [Giuliani] was behind it,” one Messinger consultant told The Times. “That’s how he operates.”
Giuliani, however, denies the accusation, saying that Crew acted on his own.
Crew, in a statement issued the day after the event, said the board was trying to “minimize disruption of students” and that “campaign activities are typically not permitted to take place in public schools.”
The Times, however, reported that Giuliani stopped at the school during his last campaign and that as mayor he has regularly visited the school as news crews covered the visits.
Although Giuliani denies having anything to do with the board’s order, a Columbia Journalism Review article published in September 1997 detailed several instances of conflicts between New York reporters and the Giuliani administration.
“In three and a half years under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, New York’s metro reporters have found agencies and departments uncooperative if not downright hostile,” the article reported.
In September 1996, the New York Daily News sued the administration over non-compliance with the state’s Freedom of Information Law. A judge ruled in favor of the paper in late April.
The Times settled a suit filed in March over access to the names of employees in an allegedly mismanaged city-run battered-women shelter.