The Republican Party wants reporters to pay up for the pleasure of their company at their 2016 presidential convention. And reporters, obviously, are not pleased.
On Monday, news broke that reporters would have to pay $150 for each for a seat in the press risers overlooking the convention floor. For that, they get a chair, space at a table, and access to power outlets. Fancy!
Outlets that don’t want to shell out for space can send their reporters to the nosebleed section of the Quicken Loans arena, where they won’t have electricity and won’t be able to see what’s going on on the floor—in other words, where they won’t be able to do their jobs properly.
“I’ve been to every national convention since ‘84, and this is the first time we’re being asked to pay for a space in the arena,” said Jonathan Salant, who chairs the press gallery’s Standing Committee of Correspondents.
He and Heather Rothman, who chairs the Executive Committee of Periodical Correspondents, aired their complaints in a terse statement.
“The convention committee said reporters who don't pay still will be allowed into the arena,” they wrote. “But the vantage points they will be given will not allow them to follow convention proceedings, gain access to the convention floor to interview public officials, nor file stories on the event. We are concerned that the proposed fee smacks of forcing the press to pay for news gathering.”
Sean Spicer, the communications director for the RNC, didn’t respond to an email seeking further comment on fee. Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for the RNC, told Roll Call that it isn’t actually an access fee.
“There is no access fee,” she said. “For custom built work stations, there will be a minimal charge at a fraction of the actual cost.”
It’s still a very big first.
Representatives from the Democratic Party didn’t promise their party wouldn’t follow suit.
“Obviously, this is a different year in terms of funding but it's too early in our planning to make any definitive determinations,” emailed April Mellody, who is helping put together the Democrats’ convention.
That said, one person with knowledge of the Democrats’ plans said it’s extremely unlikely they will charge reporters to use press writing stands.
“It’s the precedent of charging for access and that’s what bothers us,” Salant said.