Public sees what leaders say they can see
Last week a co-worker attended the song-and-dance that took place at Clemson’s International Center for Automotive Research and came away with a distinctly bitter taste.
A panel of the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce conducted the hearing, but it wasn’t the usual bad jokes, inane banter or simplistic platitudes from politicians that proved so distasteful.
Ward was in Greenville Tuesday for a congressional delegation field hearing that featured congressmen Joe Wilson and Trey Gowdy.
As is typical for The Nerve, Ward set up a video camera to record the event.
Not only does videotaping events give reporters a reference to rely on when we return to the office to write a story, it’s also a good way for the public to be able to verify that what reporters write actually happened.
We at The Nerve have been called out before to back up quotes and statements, and have been able to do so by producing video of meetings in question.
But, for whatever reason, the folks putting on the hearing at ICAR didn’t want it taped – at least not by an outside source.
Initially, Jennifer Allen, press secretary for the committee, had approached Ward and offered him a news release and other background materials on the function.
But later, after The Nerve had been video recording the event, she approached again, asked whether Ward had press credentials and stated that committee policy didn’t allow filming of the full hearing.
Another organization was videotaping it and would make the recording available online, Allen added.
“The U.S. House Education Committee won’t let people tape a public field hearing? That’s open government?” Ward wrote. “That’s policy, Allen said.”
So here we have an event at a research center created as a result of a partnership between Clemson, state and local governments, along with the private sector, being held at public university and featuring a pair of public officials, and it can’t be taped by the public.
Let’s take a guess at how the “official” version will look when it’s posted online: It’ll be a watered-down collection of sound bites that makes Wilson and Gowdy look like articulate, dynamic leaders who are taking proactive steps toward creating jobs and leading South Carolina’s drive toward a “knowledge-based” economy.
In reality, the whole affair was nothing more than a dog-and-pony show set up to make some elected officials look good, get ICAR and Clemson some positive publicity, and make it appear as the government is the key toward lowering unemployment and bringing high-paying jobs to South Carolina.
Censoring a news organization’s attempt to videotape the hearing demonstrates the futility of the entire affair.
For if the event had any real substantive merit to it, government officials wouldn’t be afraid of the media or any outside group posting the entire discussion online for the public to view, instead of bits and pieces that they can manipulate in a bid to make themselves look good.