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Alameda County DA abruptly changes media policy

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price
Thomas Hawk
/
Flickr / Creative Commons
Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price

Price’s initial action was roundly criticized by First Amendment advocates as being unconstitutional and inappropriate.

The Berkeley Scanner founder Emilie Raguso was not allowed to enter a news conference held Wednesday by District Attorney Pamela Price's office, which cited a requirement for media members to have an official press credential "issued by a bonified [sic] national news network, local news affiliate, or a long-standing independent news journal."

Raguso, an experienced local journalist, did present official credentials but was nevertheless turned away. The District Attorney's Office claimed that the criteria were part of policies that were "long-standing and predate the election of District Attorney Pamela Price."

On Saturday, the District Attorney's Office released a statement changing its reasoning for not allowing Raguso in, saying a media list had been "modified and reduced to a limited number of news outlets" during a transition of Price's communications staff over the summer. Bay City News was among the outlets removed from the list as well.

The District Attorney's Office said in its statement: "Miss Raguso, among others, including the Bay City News Service, was not included in the updated media list, an oversight now being corrected,"

After Price's office initial decision this week not to admit Raguso to the briefing – groups including the First Amendment Coalition, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sent letters to the District Attorney's Office – saying the policy violated the First Amendment because it “unconstitutionally discriminates against segments of the press and interferes with editorial discretion."

Price is facing an effort to recall her from office by critics, who say she is too soft on crime in her decisions on prosecuting cases.

Sunni M. Khalid is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, having worked has in print, radio, television, and web journalism.