Yesterday was the midpoint of the 2013 General Assembly session, and a lot has happened so far this year. Some of it you may have read about in the newspaper or seen on the news, but a lot you have not. For several years, in an effort to bring you the most comprehensive information about what happens at the General Assembly, we have videotaped key debates in both sub- and full committee meetings (see our YouTube channel). At a meeting of the Senate Education and Health Committee earlier in session, at least one capitol reporter seemed a bit put off by our efforts. As one of our staff members set up our camera in the committee room, in the same place we've set it up for several years, one senior reporter asked her for whom she worked. Upon hearing that she was with The Family Foundation, he chastised her saying, "You can’t do that here. You aren't credentialed press." A quick conversation with a Capitol Police officer made it clear to the reporter that committee hearings are public meetings and we can videotape them if we want.
So, it would appear that either the reporter had forgotten that our government's actions are open to the public or, perhaps, he's a bit intimidated by the fact that the media narrative is going to be challenged by the video showing exactly what happened, not how he and his colleagues describe it in in their "stories" and "articles." Of course, maybe he just didn't want his view blocked (though our camera was right next to a large post so we wouldn't block anyone's view).
Perhaps some of the issue is that our video exposes their media myths. In a Richmond Times-Dispatch article about the Ed and Health meeting — and specifically the debate over abortion center health and safety standards — one reporter wrote:
Both sides in the abortion debate packed the hearing room with advocates of the same arguments they've used to battle each other for the past two years.
Except, that's not at all accurate. As you will see watching the video, we used material from Department of Health inspection reports that show wide spread health and safety violations at Virginia's abortion centers — something the Times-Dispatch simply refuses to cover — material that was available just this past summer. It is new evidence we obtained from the department this past summer and last month via Freedom of Information Act requests and proves why we needed the health and safety standards. It is evidence we didn't have prior to the regulations, so we couldn't have used it "to battle each other for the past two years."
Even if we obstructed some reporters' views, we didn't affect their hearing, yet the media reported we offered no new information on the abortion center safety standards debate. It is clear we had new evidence of numerous violations not previously available to the public. (The new evidence is presented at about 5:50 into the video.)
We've said for the past year that there are some capitol reporters who have exchanged reporting for opining and, in particular, have driven some of the hysteria surrounding pro-life legislation. They've ignored or dismissed the facts about what's happening in Virginia's abortion centers, and they have little interest in balance.
Many journalists in Richmond still do great work and are fair, balanced and hard workers, while several clearly have allowed their bias to affect their work. All the more reason for our being here — years ago we accounted for the reasons the changing media landscape demanded we be here — and for you to watch the video and to share it with others.