Reporter ban from Mayor's briefing done without any official communication among staff
BALTIMORE (WBFF) -- Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's office banned a WYPR radio reporter in October without sending one email or text message, public records and a mayoral aide confirmed Wednesday.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake banned Kenneth Burns from her weekly media briefing, alleging he was verbally and physically threatening following the October 5 briefing.
FOX45 filed a Public Information Act October 14 requesting all communication from the Mayor's Office regarding the alleged threats. Baltimore City replied to FOX45's request two weeks after the 30-day deadline, showing there had been none.
"It's a big deal because it goes to the heart of a free press, a democratic press, and of the ability of the media to do the job it was created to do: to inform the public," Loyola University Maryland Journalism Professor Sara Magee said. "How much do these people we elect, who we put in office, have the ability to say, 'No, you can't cover what I'm doing' when you're a public figure who has been elected and what you do impacts people, impacts your constituents?"
Other politicians like President-Elect Donald Trump have implemented such bans during the campaign season on specific media outlets. Mrs. Rawlings-Blake said she grants access to her media briefings at her discretion and Burns was free to cover any other city event.
When FOX45 tried once again Thursday to get details about Burns' alleged threats, Mayor Rawlings-Blake directed the question to Burns' employer, WYPR 88.1 FM. WYPR's news director Joel McCord told FOX45 in October he was angry "an elected official thinks she can pick and choose the reporters who cover her."
Follow-up questions Thursday were shut down by the Mayor's Director of Public Affairs Anthony McCarthy, who is set to join Mayor-Elect Catherine Pugh when she is sworn in December 6.