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.

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 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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