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University allows press to film, photograph Warren speech

Policy change follows criticism from ProJo, New England First Amendment Coalition

The University revoked and altered its “pencil press” media policy for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-MA, speech today after receiving criticism from local publications and community members.

ABC6 will now film and pool the recording to media outlets, while the Providence Journal will do the same for photography, wrote Brian Clark, director of news and editorial development, in an email to The Herald. Previously, the University stipulated that reporters could not record any portion of the event.

The Providence Journal and the New England First Amendment Coalition protested the University policy as unnecessarily restrictive, as the Providence Journal previously reported.

Journalist Michelle Smith from the Associated Press took to Twitter to voice her discontent with the plan, tweeting that the original policy made the University appear to move “backwards as time has progressed.”

“I was appalled” by the initial policy, said Mike Stanton, a former University professor of journalism and former reporter for the Providence Journal who also tweeted his dissatisfaction. “I believe in openness as a reporter and the importance of the free flow of discourse, especially at a college campus that espouses those ideals.”

Given Warren’s status as a high-profile politician, the University should extend access to reporters, particularly as her speech takes place the day after the midterm election, Stanton added.

Originally scheduled for last Thursday at the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center, the lecture was rescheduled to today at 5 p.m. and relocated to the De Ciccio Family Auditorium in the Salomon Center.

The initial media parameters for the Salomon lecture aimed to “make a very high-demand event work in a small space,” Clark wrote.  “Our goal was to ensure that news reporters could access the event, yet in a way that acknowledged the limitations of the venue.”

Still, some journalists question whether the venue’s size was the University’s true motives for setting such a policy.

Previously, the University hosted the 2014 Providence mayoral debate between then-candidates Jorge Elorza and Vincent “Buddy” Cianci in Salomon and provided a “simulcast” of the full debate, according to the Oct. 8, 2014 press release.

While the University might limit press access due to venue capacity, restricting coverage of Warren’s lecture does not seem reasonable since Salomon is a “huge venue,” said Rose Lang-Maso ’20, president of the Brown Democrats.

“I’m glad to see they have changed their mind,” Lang-Maso said. The University is not obligated to follow first amendment regulations as a private institution, but it should still aim to uphold the ideals of free speech, she added.

“There’s all kinds of measures that (should) have been taken to accommodate the press,” Stanton said.


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