Newspaper Shut Out of O'Brien's Press Conference

Concord Monitor ban may be retaliation for controversial cartoon.

Two Concord Monitor reporters were barred from attending a press conference this morning called by House Speaker William O'Brien to address possible reforms to the EBT program.

Monitor reporters Annmarie Timmins and Matt Spolar attempted to enter the media availability in O'Brien's third floor Statehouse office, but were told they weren't invited and were held at bay at the door.


O'Brien had no comment on why the Monitor reporters weren't allowed in.

The newspaper ran afoul of the House Speaker earlier this year when it ran a cartoon . The cartoon came after on the House floor on May 15 during debate on the Voter ID bill.

The cartoon, by Mike Marland, prompted Republican House leaders and the Republican State Committee to issue statements calling for a retraction of the cartoon. The newspaper refused to back down, with Concord Monitor Editor Felice Belman saying the cartoon "seemed on point, given last week's circus."

Belman said this morning that she's not sure if the cartoon had anything to do with the newspaper's reporters being shut out of today's event. She said the two reporters weren't given a specific reason for being uninvited to the press conference.

"The House Republican office made it clear how unhappy they were with the cartoon published on our editorial page a few weeks back, and at the time then-Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt did say that he intended to stop talking to the Monitor," Belman said in an email. "But without hearing from the speaker himself, I can't really speculate on his motivation."

Belman said the Monitor had hoped to cover today's press conference because it is "an issue of considerable concern to readers in central New Hampshire." The newspaper editorialized on the issue on Sunday.

Today's media availability included O'Brien, a "bipartisan group of legislators," and Jackie Whiton, an Antrim woman who was recently fired as a store clerk after refusing to allow a customer to use his Electronic Benefits Transfer card to buy cigarettes.

Raymond Buckley July 06, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Typical of a bully. What a disgrace.
Soujourner Truth July 06, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Well, showed THEM who's boss. #mydadcanbeatupyourdad
Peter M. Sullivan July 06, 2012 at 04:50 PM
The next time O'Brien and the Tea Party crowd wave their little pocket Constitutions, they may want to refer to the part labeled "First Amendment".
Kathy Sullivan July 06, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I'd really like to know who the legislators were who attended and sat there while O'Brien refused to allow the Monitor in.
Super Fun Size July 06, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I'll show you for depicting me as a petty dictator!
ForThePeople July 06, 2012 at 06:10 PM
It's a shame that the reporters did not refuse to leave. Arresting the press for covering a press conference would be national news.
Wendy Thomas July 06, 2012 at 06:13 PM
wow, this is really quite stunning.
Tony Schinella (Editor) July 06, 2012 at 06:24 PM
@FTP: The story is up on HuffPost and is being spread around to Poynter and other First Amendment and media watchdogs. So, if it isn't semi-national news at this point, it will be. :-)
Tony Schinella (Editor) July 06, 2012 at 06:48 PM
@Kathy: Along with O'Brien and Maj Leader Pete Silva, Elaine Swinford, Peter Leishman, and Bruce Marcus were also there. I'm going to correct my story to reflect that there was only one Democrat rep. there, not plural. I didn't know that Marcus was a Republican.
Rosemarie Rung July 06, 2012 at 06:59 PM
When I get embarrassed by Merrimack reps, I just think how it could be worse...I could be from Mont Vernon where this bully is from.
Jan Schmidt July 06, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Behaving like a dictator by locking out a member of the media because he didn't like a political cartoon from her newspaper inferring that he was a dictator. oh good grief...more fodder for the Comedy Channel
cwxj415 July 06, 2012 at 09:25 PM
How ironic: O'Brien is so mad at being caricatured as a Nazi, he responds by behaving exactly like a Nazi!
Rick Watrous July 06, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Speaker O'Brien is his own worst enemy, as he becomes increasingly thin-skinned and ham-fisted. First he attempts to quell free speech in legislative emails (from representatives he doesn't like) and now this turning away of press that he doesn't like. First amendment rights are always the first to go when a leader feels threatened. This smacks of the desperate actions of a tyrant feeling his power slipping away...
mikem July 06, 2012 at 10:44 PM
In the later, related article you mentioned that a "another reporter" thought that preventing Ms. Timmins' access to this news event was nothing more than humorous, when that person quipped "“It’s a great day for the beach." Could you please let us know who that reporter was so that civic-minded citizens can "shut out" that news outlet?
Tony Schinella (Editor) July 06, 2012 at 11:35 PM
@MikeM: I will go back and listen to the audio again and see if I can ID the person. But I wouldn't hold this comment against anyone. We were all joking a bit because we couldn't believe what we were hearing. Even Annemarie was joking about it so ...
bill b July 06, 2012 at 11:45 PM
so true
Bruce July 07, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Sporty57 July 07, 2012 at 06:29 AM
Republicans can say , attack and shoot the lies , deceit and BS against democrats 24/7. If anyone says a word which they dislike ,, they go ape. This is no longer a republican conservative party , but a organizations of different hate groups which can only stand to have things their way.
Allan Mckinnon July 07, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Ve have Vays to make you not talk! heh heh heh
Danny Del Rossi July 07, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Stay classy New Hampshire.....and don't EVER grow up.
Chris July 07, 2012 at 02:05 PM
If the stash fits.
Chris July 07, 2012 at 02:08 PM
The government of the hater baggers ia truly facist as evidenced by O'brien and his stash.
Jeffrey Wescott July 07, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Does anyone remember when Mel Thomson wanted the NH National Guard to have nuclear weapons? Or when he threatened to revoke college charters for hiring Marxist professors? As nuts as old Mel was, I can tell you he was always fairly cordial with the press, even with this pinko UNH student reporter. Note to O'Brien: don't piss off the press, stupid.
Richard Milhouse Nixon July 07, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Freedom of the press means nothing to a commie like O'brien.Thank God he will be out of office with a lot of the ilk that sits in Concord this November.
Richard Milhouse Nixon July 07, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Amazing the Concord Police didn't arrest him for violating the Constitution,or maybe they haven't heard of it either.
mikem July 08, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Tony, But do you really think Annemarie thought it was a joke, or was she just trying to act in a civil manner in an uncivil situation? Concerning this incident, I was asked a very valid question. Media outlets are always preaching to us about Freedom of the Press. So when Mr. O'Brien decided to bar access to the state's third largest newspaper, why did any of the reporters simply get up an walk out? Also one other related point - the lack or or biased news coverage by the media outlets. It is interesting there was no mention of the press conference or related incident by the Keene Sentinel, Boston's Channel 7 or NECN. Likewise, the Union Leader "covered" the events of the news conference, but made no mention in its article about the two Concord Monitor reporters. Finally, the Nashua Telegraph's Kevin Landrigan, wrote about the two reporters being denied access to this news conference, but in his usual attempt at GOP spin Landrigan reported on a specious complaint from a non-reporter (Grant Bosse, a researcher for the conservative Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy) that he was denied access to a media events held by Governor Lynch and the former Democratic Party speaker of the house. In the end, considering the actions of the reports at this incident and how their media outlets either failed to or skewed the reporting of this incident, do you have to wonder why so many citizens in this country have a negative opinion of the press?
Tony Schinella (Editor) July 08, 2012 at 11:47 PM
@mikem: We all made lighthearted comments about the situation based on the secretary's offhand remark. Annemarie said what she said in a joking, sarcastic manner. Along with Patch, WMUR had it on at 6 and 11, NHPR had a short bit, the Monitor and Telegraph each had their stores, and the UL had a story posted yesterday. Boston TV? They don't cover us much up here. I feel your frustration about the media. I felt the same way more than 20 years ago and I stopped complaining about it. Instead, I started my own radio talk show and newsletter, I wrote columns for Massachusetts weeklies, and later, became a beat reporter and then editor and ran WKXL too. One of the great things about being the Concord NH Patch editor is that I don't have to complain about not being happy with how the press covers the city anymore. I just work hard to do the best job I can do instead. If you would like to blog for us, we'd love to have you. I'm sure you have more to say! Lastly, I can't speak to why other reporters didn't walk out. But if I had walked out, I wouldn't have been able to document what happened or asked the speaker for comment. You wouldn't have known much about what happened at all. If readers hold that against me, so be it. Thanks again for reading.
nhpoet July 10, 2012 at 04:55 PM
House Speaker O'Brien and his Tea Party followers demonstrate opposition to constititional guarantees - from personal liberties to our state's devotion to providing quality education to its children. Will New Hampshire voters wake up in November and send these folks back to the private sector?


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