March 30, 2020 The Honorable Michael L. Parson Governor 201 W. Capitol Ave. #216 Jefferson City, MO 65102 Gov. Parson, As the state of Missouri continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled many of our communities, we find now more than ever that a greater access to the state’s elected leaders, and the information only they can provide is critical to helping residents from Albany to Zalma understand how this illness continues to affect their lives.
While Missouri’s journalists and the audiences they serve appreciate the daily briefings you and your staff have been holding to provide updates about COVID-19 in Missouri, we believe these press conferences should once again be opened up to allow journalists to attend in person. Allowing journalists to attend in person offers greater opportunity to expand on the lines of questioning being asked, as well as provide more nuanced follow-up questions as the conversation between yourself and the journalists develops. This effectiveness of this relationship can be seen at press briefings from governors in many other states, as well as the White House, which continue to allow journalists to attend in person. Missouri’s journalists fully understand the need for social distancing, and we have been pushing that message in our pages, during our broadcasts and on our websites since the first recommendations were made.
However, we think there are larger venues available in which to hold the state’s daily press briefings that would allow journalists to be present while maintaining spacing that would not make attending a threat to their or others’ physical health. The state’s broadcasters and press associations can even work together, with your office, to develop a pool of journalists who would be available to attend your daily press briefings and understand the expectations that come with participating in these briefings.
As this crisis for our state continues, Missouri’s journalists remain committed to the communities they serve. We take seriously our roles as sources of credible, fact-checked information, a role that can better accomplished when we are able to directly interact with you and your staff, rather than being filtered through the comments on a social media thread. We want to work with your administration to provide the best possible information we can to our readers, listeners and viewers, but we feel strongly that means the Capitol and your press conferences should be re-opened to the journalists who are responsible for disseminating that information to the state’s 6 million residents.
Mark Gordon Executive Director Missouri Broadcasters Association Mark Maassen Executive Director Missouri Press Association CC: Kelli Jones, Communications Director, Office of the Governor of Missouri Members, Missouri Broadcasters Association, Missouri Press Association