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The Role of the Media is to Hold Power Accountable

‘A diverse and critical press corps is a linchpin of a free society’

By Katy Grimes, April 28, 2023 12:02 pm

We recently learned President Joe Biden had a cheat sheet with a prewritten question from a journalist at Wednesday’s press conference.

“A photographer caught a picture of the cheat sheet as the president held a press conference alongside South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in the White House rose garden,” the Daily Caller reported. “The sheet included a prewritten question from Los Angeles Times journalist Courtney Subramanian and a photograph of her.”

“‘How are YOU squaring YOUR domestic priorities — like reshoring semiconductors manufacturing — with alliance-based foreign policy?’ the question read next to her photograph.”

The role of the media is to hold power accountable. The founding fathers understood the importance of a free press. They also understood the power of the press and its need to remain free of government control. As the Virginia Declaration of Rights explained, “That the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”

Who knew that so many media outlets would also become autocratic and tyrannical and attempt to silence other media outlets they disagree with? Do they fear that reporters who accurately report the news rather than influence and propagandize will expose their own deceit and political biases?

The Capitol Correspondents Association of California recently dealt with California’s “despotic” government and actually issued a set of guidelines for reporters covering state agency business, the Legislature, as well as the governor.


For many years, and more recently since Gov. Gavin Newsom was elected, journalists have had significant access issues covering the Newsom administration, the Legislature, many in his cabinet, and state agencies. Here are the new guidelines from the CCAC:

  • Do not give a state agency or office questions in advance.
  • Information provided without attribution is not acceptable, especially in cases where a state agency is making an announcement or providing general information.

It was stunning that this had to be reiterated not only to the Capitol press corps, but to Gov. Newsom’s office and his appointees.

A recent CalMatters article addressed the government agencies asking for questions in advance and refusing to attribute information to their spokespeople:

Ashley Zavala, president of the correspondents association who covers state government and politics for Sacramento television station KCRA, said the extraordinary step was prompted by years of complaints from Capitol press about problems reporting on Gov. Gavin Newsom, his administration and the Legislature. These have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which accelerated a shift to digital communication that has transformed how the state government discloses its work.”

Zavala has been one of the very few Capitol reporters to ask fair but tough questions, seeking to hold elected officials, the governor, and agency heads accountable. Far too many more are cozy with this administration, or perhaps are uncomfortable asking probing questions. I’ve heard more than once Capitol journalists bragging about their “access” to the governor and lawmakers – but it lasts only as long as reporters are amicable.

While the COVID pandemic influenced lockdowns, the State Capitol remained buttoned up from the public and from the press for a lot longer than was necessary. It was used as an excuse to not have to deal with the media or the grubby public.

In January 2021, the Globe reported, “As a credentialed member of the California State Capitol Press Corp, this Globe editor has not attended a live, in person press conference for the Governor since February 2020, nor has the Globe been allowed to ask the governor one question in 10 months, despite calling in to his press conferences.”

The Zoom press conferences required members of the Capitol media to ask permission to ask a question of the governor. We were screened and censored.

We also noted that the gallery in the California State Senate was closed to the public, disallowing the usual public review. The gallery is the seating area above the Senate chambers where visitors can sit and observe the Senate debate and vote on legislation.

“The Capitol grounds were fenced off with galvanized steel chain link fencing.”

“The word going around Capitol circles is that leaders in the Capitol like it this way. They like empty committee hearing rooms. They like empty Senate and Assembly galleries, and they really like not having to deal with members of the media – even the friendlies.”

We asked, “At what point will the media, the Third House and the public be allowed to re-engage with elected members of the California Legislature and Governor in the People’s House?”

The recent CalMatters article found “Covering state government has grown more difficult in recent years with fewer reporters covering the Capitol and social media offering politicians new ways to reach constituents and voters without speaking to the press.”

“Media outlets across the state note rejected interview requests, challenges obtaining public records or the lack of any official response in their stories.”

The Globe retweeted the CalMatters article with this comment:

“Thorough, accurate article about the actual lack of transparency in the CA Gov’s office and senior admin. Welcome to my world of the last 13+ years. Gov. Schwarzenegger had open door policy. Gov. Brown – only a select few. Newsom – doesn’t think he has to.”

I also reminded the Correspondents Association of their attempt to silence me several years ago:

“And the CA Correspondents Assoc and Assembly Speaker’s office revoked my press credential in 2015 — the only member of CA Capitol press in its history to have this happen. Lawyers appealed, threatened 1A lawsuit, and won it back. Today’s Democrats.”

As I reported in 2016, after having won my press credential back:

“Freedom of the press protects the right to obtain and publish information or opinions without government censorship or fear of punishment, whether or not government finds the material offensive, or disagrees with it. Free speech enables people to obtain information from a diversity of sources, make decisions, and communicate those decisions to the government. Recently I wrote about having my press credential renewal denied by the Capitol Correspondents Association of California, appointed as an arm of the California Legislature’s Joint Rules Committee, which has the final say in press credentialing Capitol media. What began as a witch-hunt several years ago by the totalitarian bullies who make up the righteous Capitol media cartel, who assumed the role as arbiters of fairness and free speech, turned into a valuable schooling in First Amendment rights.

The ensuing process exposed the air of supremacy and inability for self-reflection among California’s liberal media and mainstream journalists, who view themselves as unimpeachable and above reproach.”

“A diverse and critical press corps is a linchpin of a free society,” my attorney Paul Beard said. “We are pleased that Ms. Grimes has been given the access to the halls of our state government that she deserves–and is entitled to under our Constitution.”

Notably, the quote from LA Times reporter Subramanian to President Biden was labeled “Question #1,” indicating that the president should call on her first. “The president stuck to the script by calling on Subramanian first,” the Daily Caller reported. The LA Times reporter asked President Biden the agreed upon question. That is not journalism or accountability.

We are fortunate in California that the Capitol Correspondents Association under new leadership has also recognized “A diverse and critical press corps is a linchpin of a free society.”

The best check against abuses by government officials, as well as those by the media, is to uphold freedom of speech and freedom of the press for those who choose to exercise these rights. The First Amendment doesn’t just apply to elitist liberal media and mainstream journalists, even though many appear to think it does.

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9 thoughts on “The Role of the Media is to Hold Power Accountable

  1. Great article about what SHOULD BE a taken-for-granted fundamental exercise of free speech, now under intense attack in our present upside-down world.

    Just LOOK at how these vile, contemptible jack-booted Sacramento Dem/Marxist politicians, not least the infamous Gov Gruesome, unashamedly used “Covid” to try to finish off what shouldn’t have threatened them in the first place, by shutting down completely any earnest press coverage that might actually hold them as our “public servants” accountable. Disgusting, loathsome, craven, and cowardly are not strong enough words to describe these people.

    By the way, that Katy Grimes has fought and won battles over many years against being shut down and muzzled has meant that Californians actually KNEW what was going on in Sacramento (and elsewhere); information that we wouldn’t have otherwise known. For the health of our state and our country what could be more important than that? For a long long time we’ve known there have been only a handful (if that) of such reporters in California. It has been encouraging lately, however, to see an increase in courageous and earnest reporters who strive for those ideals and who work hard to report the vital truths and information that Californians need to know.

  2. You make a bold proclamation of what the role of the media is, but nowhere will you find that defined as the role of the media.

    1. “The Fourth Estate”
      Journalism as the Fourth Estate – A System of Checks and Balances
      However you meant your comment, whether as an objective observation or a derisive one, you’re right that we are now seeing an attempt to memory-hole the importance of The Fourth Estate as an indispensable element of the proper functioning of the American Experiment.

  3. The role of Pravda is to make us believe something someone else wants Us to believe.
    We have politicians that “contrive on the fly”. (Squint, smile, and lie” the Obama=Biden modus operandi)
    MSNBC would have us believe Trump did not squint or smile.
    A tough question in advance can allow a better and more detailed answer if the politician is forthright.
    Imagine the response if Kamala had time to prepare. (A never ending stream without substance)

  4. The majority of the lamestream legacy media seem to think their role is to be propagandists for the Democrat party? They don’t allow diversity of opinion and they are critical only of those who dare to not espouse the Democrat party line? It makes you wonder how many of them are on the Democrat party payroll?

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