Rick Green at the Hartford Courant lends a holiday helping hand to Where We Live and Dennis House at Channel 3 in our quest to have a substantive, long-form conversation with Governor Rell. Rick picked up on our recent posts, wondering why the Governor of our state rarely addresses the media outside the comfort of tightly-controlled events.
This started with Dennis’ blog post at The Hartfordite called “Why Won’t Governor Rell Talk to Reporters?” He writes:
I know Channel 3 Eyewitness News is not the only organization that would like to see the Governor’s handlers allow her to hold a news conference and take questions from reporters. Voters, our viewers, want to hear from the Governor, not hear from our reporters reading an excerpt from a news release from her office.
Look, I agree with Dennis that the Governor seems to be a nice person, and I have nothing against her personally. And, I’ve long worried that media complaints about access sound like so much whining to the general public. But this isn’t about filling airtime, or getting juicy quotes. Governor Rell does periodically call back our reporters when asked to address a very specific issue that her administration is highlighting that day. In most cases, these soundbites include some swipe at Democrats in the state legislature. In fact, most of what we get from all sides at the capitol is aimed at blaming others for the state’s problems. I’m pretty sure our listeners can do without these.
All we’re really asking for is accountability and explanation. We want to know how and why decisions are made. When something is unclear, we want clarity. When something seems like a good idea, we want data-based support and confirmation. On Where We Live, our listeners ask really good questions, and they feel entitled to answers.
The top public official in the state does not need to answer to the media, but she (or he) does need to answer to the people. And, whether you like it or not, the media (still…for now) provide that message to the people. That Dennis House and Channel 3 have problems with access to the Governor tells a far bigger story than what I’ve been able to tell so far. As part of the mainstream television media, they’re reaching a broad audience…the sort of audience most politicians crave.
It’s never surprised me that our show isn’t able to attract Governor Rell to answer questions, or that she prefers to spend her time on more conservative or entertainment-oriented radio programs. But, when local TV news can’t get answers…well, that’s just strange. I second Dennis’ call for media access to be a campaign issue in 2010. I can’t begin to guess whether talking more openly will make the new Governor more popular, or less. But being popular isn’t in the job description (ask Lowell Weicker).
I’ve begun to dream about a morning, months from now, as M. Jodi Rell winds down her career as one of the most popular politicians in Connecticut history. In my dream, she sits with me in studio and takes phone call questions about our state’s problems and success stories. She admits mistakes, celebrates victories, and challenges her replacement to lay out a vision for Connecticut’s future. A future where once closely guarded political capital is traded openly to invest in action and change.
Until then, I’ll have to rely on Rick Green. It seems he can get through to the Governor anytime he wants…