Stefanik’s closed-off approach does not serve anyone
Being a reporter has gotten more difficult in this 24-7 news climate with posting updates on stories throughout the day and blogging, posting to social media. We are also taking more of our own photos and video.
There is a lot more responsibility.
And there are other hindrances. Instead of picking up the phone and talking to your congressperson or other official from a government agency, you have to go through a spokesperson.
The hypercharged political environment is also another issue as every one of your political-related stories is picked apart by people who want to know why you focused on one issue and not the other, why you quoted one source and not the other.
Our Republican congresswoman, Elise Stefanik, who was already very guarded and difficult to reach, has cut off our access entirely because of some critical editorials and columns we have written.
In the past month, her media people have ignored requests for comments on specific issues and not even sent out advisories letting us know that Stefanik was going to be in the area. We missed an economic development forum she had in Corinth in August because we were not notified. The Albany Times Union was invited.
On Monday, we did not know that she was going to be in Saratoga Springs addressing an invasive species conference. My colleague, Gwendolyn Craig, who covers environmental issues found out about the conference through a Department of Environmental Conservation newsletter and was able to hustle down to the event and write a story, with Stefanik mentioned briefly.
Stefanik’s closed-off approach makes it harder for people on the news side to write about issues that matter to our readers.
In the last few months, I have had to change my approach. Since I have not been able to talk to Stefanik directly, or even through her spokesperson, I have had to look through her social media posts for public statements and review the roll call votes.
For my weekly political column, I reviewed three immigration-related pieces of legislation last week — two of which Stefanik voted against. I erroneously wrote that the Homeland Security Act involved prohibiting the separation migrant children from their families, but it instead involved creating an ombudsmen to oversee border and immigration-related concerns.
The U.S. Border Medical Screening Standards Act did not require the Office of Customs and Border Patrol to establish procedures for medical screenings for all individuals. Instead, it requires the Department of Homeland Security to research innovative approaches to address medical screening and establish an electronic health record system.
I was looking at earlier versions of the bills online and had not realized that they had been amended. Stefanik voted against both.
So, we get an angry call and email from the spokesperson insisting that the story be taken down and changed. After reviewing the matter, I rewrote that section of the column and posted a correction attached to the online story in today’s print edition.
If I had been able to talk to Stefanik ahead or her media representatives ahead of time, I would have been informed about the amendments to the bills.
Stefanik posts a weekly roundup of her votes on her official Facebook page, but does not explain anything about them or why she voted the way she did, so I am left in the dark.
My predecessor Maury Thompson was able to pick up the phone and talk to former U.S. Rep. Bill Owens.
How times have changed.
Michael Goot is a news reporter for the Post-Star of Glens Falls. This column initially appeared as a blog post on Post-Star.com.