Why are CNN correspondent Kyung Lah and photojournalist Ronnie McCray standing on a faraway hotel balcony across an indoor pool from the campaign rally they wanted to cover? Here, let Lah explain…

“In a sign of how siloed our information sources have become,” Lah wrote, “midterm campaigns, many of them Republican, are widely shutting out local papers, local TV stations and national reporters. In Pennsylvania, we spoke with leading gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano’s campaign because we were planning to attend a rally in Uniontown, PA. The rally was advertised as free and open to the public, with registration. The campaign instructed us to register, saying there was no separate media registration, but upon our arrival, we were told no media would be allowed.”

That’s why Lah and McCray booked a hotel room that overlooked the rally. The Mastriano campaign was not happy when they saw the crew perched on the balcony: “The campaign sent two security guards who threatened to remove us from the room,” Lah wrote. “But since the hotel allowed us to stay, we were within our right to observe a large event that everyone in the hotel could see.”

“This behavior is part and parcel to how the Mastriano campaign has excluded local reporters,” she added. This recent Philadelphia Inquirer article said that the campaign printed out photos of journalists in order to prevent entry to an event.
Lah reported on the rally, and Mastriano’s aversion to independent media, on Monday’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” Later in the hour, Tapper’s guest Maria Cardona gave kudos for Lah for creativity and said “the fact that Mastriano’s campaign did not want press there should be a red flag and a huge alert for every Pennsylvanian.”

But Mastriano’s media-bashing talking points at the rally received thunderous applause from his supporters. That’s the heart of the matter…

Debate dodging

Last week The AP’s Sudhin Thanawala wrote about a related theme of the GOP primary season: “Many candidates for leading offices — often Republicans — are abandoning the time-honored tradition of debating their rivals before Election Day.” For example, Herschel Walker, the leading GOP contender for a Senate seat in Georgia, has skipped two debates. Naturally, Walker’s campaign did not grant The AP’s request for an interview about it.
>> “Debates? Skip ’em. Sit down with reporters and be grilled on policy? Nah. See, Herschel Walker doesn’t make campaign stops so much as he makes appearances, speaks to fans, and poses for photos,” Amanda Carpenter wrote for The Bulwark…
>> Lah adds: “The problem is that midterm debate dodging and only talking to primary voters who make up the party’s base hurts democracy, and possibly these very campaigns, in the long run. In the 2021 Georgia US Senate runoffs, then-Senator and candidate David Perdue only spoke with right-wing press, and eventually lost his seat. It also limits what reporters can cover — we don’t want to just cover one party, that’s not helpful or healthy in our polarized politics…”
>> Running against the media is a common practice in GOP primaries, but other practices deserve scrutiny too. For example, President Biden has granted a very small number of interviews this year, which we have pointed out repeatedly…

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