Snow emergency prompts state to stop the presses
PENNSYLVANIA–Due to a “state of emergency” caused by early January’s blizzard, newspaper reporters and delivery trucks were forbidden to travel across 39 counties in the state of Pennsylvania. For many publications, it was the first time that they had missed a delivery in their history.
In an effort to keep as many people as possible off the roads, Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker declared the roads unsafe and prohibited travel for all vehicles except “essential workers” for one day. Members of the broadcast media were among those considered “essential” because they were part of an emergency response system that could quickly broadcast conditions, unlike newspapers that report the following day, according to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
The Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association claimed that shutting down the print media’s ability to report and distribute, while permitting other media to travel, violates their First Amendment rights. The association said it intends to lobby to have delivery trucks declared “essential” in the event of future transportation bans, since the trucks are key to exercising the right to distribute papers.
Despite the travel ban, many newspapers still sent reporters out to cover the storm, and some publishing companies proceeded with delivery. However, the Scranton Times and the Bloomsburg Press- Enterprise reported that their journalists were chased and stopped by local police. Although many reporters were given warnings to return home, none reported receiving citations from the police. A few newspaper delivery trucks from the Scranton Times were issued $90 tickets for disregarding the travel ban. The travel restrictions were lifted for newspaper employees after one day.