State Agency Action Threatens Press Access

The Office of Administration for the State of Minnesota has cancelled a pressroom lease for The UpTake, a credentialed member of the capitol press corps. State officials claim that The UpTake is a non-traditional news organization. If allowed to stand, the action has broad First Amendment ramifications because it could limit all news organizations’ access to the Minnesota Capitol.

The UpTake is urging the State to reconsider its decision in light of Minnesota’s statutory requirement of open access to government and respect for the constitutional right all Americans have to freedom of the press.

The UpTake has been a credentialed member of the Minnesota Capitol Press Corps since 2008. The UpTake is the only media organization in the state that provides web accessible, gavel-to-gavel video coverage of the Minnesota Legislature — including times when there is no broadcast TV coverage and when the Legislature’s own video servers fail. The UpTake was the only media organization to provide live video coverage of every moment of Minnesota’s U.S. Senate election contest trial.

Last month, The UpTake and the State Administration Department signed a rental contract so The UpTake could place a reporter in the pressroom to better cover the legislature. Before The UpTake could move into the new space, the state’s administration department terminated the lease, saying it needed to reevaluate its unwritten policy of leasing space to the press because The UpTake is a “nontraditional” news organization.  One media organization had written a letter saying it was concerned The UpTake was “partisan” and would use Twitter and its website to report other journalists’ work.  The administration said it had received “other complaints,” but would not elaborate on what those were or who made them.

In an open meeting with the majority of the journalists who work in the pressroom, no one expressed they had a problem in sharing space with The UpTake. Instead, journalists were alarmed that the state is trying to decide who is and who is not working press and that a review or revamping of press space could potentially place the press away from the Capitol building, making it much harder to cover the legislature.

“Since large media companies are cutting back on reporters and other resources to cover news, the need for new entrepreneurial journalism organizations such as The UpTake is growing,” said The UpTake’s Executive Director Jason Barnett  “Minnesota should be looking at how to be more inclusive in its press access instead of trying to exclude based upon a fear of ‘nontraditional’ media.”

Unless the State Administration Department agrees to change its mind, The UpTake’s lease will be terminated just before the legislature reaches the final days of session.  It is during those final days that The UpTake’s coverage will be needed most.  “We’re appealing to citizens to make their voices heard,” said Barnett, “Because if The UpTake loses, the First Amendment is violated, and every citizen loses, too.

About The UpTake and The UpTake Institute

The UpTake is a citizen-fueled video news gathering organization that uses the Internet as its broadcast medium. Since its inception in late 2007, The UpTake has explored the frontier of social media and newsgathering. The UpTake uses a large, national network of professional and volunteer journalists to publish work on its own website, a large Twitter network, partnerships with You Tube, affiliated media outlets in the Media Consortium, the BBC, CNN and others.  The UpTake is considered a pioneer in online live-broadcast participatory journalism. With more than 24 million viewer minutes, The UpTake is one of the top 10 news video channels in the world on Livestream.  The UpTake has hosted thousands of people a day simultaneously on its live chat room, and published more than 2,000 local and national stories since its founding.  It produces a live radio show daily that is also simulcast with video on the web.

The UpTake is a 501(c)4, non-partisan, non-profit organization.

The UpTake Institute was founded in the spring of 2009 to train citizen journalists in the principles and practice of journalism and to re-acquaint citizens with a civic interpretation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: Citizens have the right and responsibility to shape the media. Since its founding,
The UpTake Institute has forged partnerships with You Tube, The Walker Art Center and Wellstone Action. More than 300 citizen journalists have received training.

The UpTake Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit , non-partisan organization.

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