WASHINGTON, D.C.–In mid-July, the U.S. Senate passed a nonbinding resolution that reporters who cover the body should file financial disclosure forms as a condition of accreditation.
The measure, introduced by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), passed 60- 39. Although it has no actual effect and does not have a counterpart in the House, it calls for the Senate to pass a binding resolution this session requiring financial disclosure by reporters.
This would require the more than 6,700 accredited Capitol Hill journalists to reveal the sources and amount of outside income. It appears to require them to report the salaries paid by their news organizations. Currently, a committee of reporters establishes rules governing accreditation of journalists who cover Congress.
Byrd contended in a speech on the floor of the Senate that journalists should be held accountable for their actions just as members of Congress, who already are required to file financial disclosures.
“As purveyors of the news, the press have enormous power to persuade, far greater in fact than does any single politician,” Byrd said. “It is this very power, unchecked and freewheeling, that journalists can no longer ignore and brush aside. There is as much need for the press to be made accountable to the public as there is for elected officials.”
The Washington Post cited recent speeches before special interest or business groups by news media celebrities, such as columnist George Will and ABC’s Cokie Roberts, as one factor leading to the resolution. (H.R. 1854)
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.