A story in today's New York Times reports on how the Romney campaign is trying to keep a very tight lid on coverage of the candidate. It tells how reporters have been prevented from getting close when the candidate goes "on the rope line," which is what they call it when he walks along the barricades that keep the public back and shakes hands and exchanges a few words.
It seems Romney has been caught going off message by reporters as he's on the rope line. A few awkward comments have been overheard by reporters and then incorporated into their stories.
So the campaign is trying to prevent reporters from getting close enough to hear the one-on-one exchanges as the candidate glad-hands.
I'm not picking only on Romney here. Other campaigns have tried to keep reporters from hearing informal chatter by their candidates too.
If a candidate is in a private meeting or in someone's home, the campaign has every right to keep the press away. But if it's a public event like a campaign stop or a fundraiser where the candidate is interacting openly with the public, the media should have access.
Campaign handlers shouldn't have it both ways -- get the media to report on every speech and photograph every photo op, while keeping the media away when informal and unrehearsed dialogue may occur with the public.
The New York Times story went on to say that once an incident at a recent event prompted complaints from the media, the Romney campaign claimed it was not their policy to keep reporters away from the rope line and that a volunteer worker had made an error.
Here's what I think the media should do when they are prevented from having access to a candidate at a public event -- simply don't report anything that day on the candidate's activities and speeches.
Let's face it. Most campaign events are aimed at getting media coverage that can reach tens or hundreds of thousands or millions of people, moreso than the few hundred or few thousand actually at an event. So... no access, no coverage.
Imagine if the media had simply stopped reporting anything on Sarah Palin when she was running and refusing to talk to the "lamestream" media. If no one other than FOX had covered her every word and wink, her campaign would have gotten her out to talk to the media a lot faster.
I know a media coverage boycott will never happen -- certainly not at a presidential campign level -- but just imagine if it did. We, the public, might end up being more educated voters.