Networks Refuse to Cover DOJ Baring Media from Ferguson Town Halls

Starting on Monday night, a series of town hall meetings in Ferguson, Missouri began taking place in light of the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in conjunction with the Department of Justice (DOJ) that will be closed to the media. When it came to the major broadcast networks reporting this censoring of the press, none of them chose to cover it.

According to an article posted on MSNBC’s website, an agency within the DOJ known as the Community Relations Service (CRS) has been “working behind the scenes to cool racial tensions in the city” by coming in and closing “the meetings to the media and non-residents.”

A spokesman for the City of Ferguson told MSNBC on Monday that “[t]he idea about no media came from the Department of Justice – not the city,” as well as: "[I]t is my understanding that they believe that the presence of media hinders and disrupts the conversation so that it is no longer productive and does not fulfill the purpose for which it was intended."

When the CRS was asked about why the agency would make such a move, a DOJ spokeswoman cited “the agency’s legislative mandate” that was issued in 1964 and allows for the CRS to “hold confidential any information acquired in the regular performance of its duties upon the understanding that it would be so held” and, in this case, includes town halls.

The CRS mandate stated that any CRS official “who makes public “in any manner” information gathered during their mediation services are subject to misdemeanor charges and could face fines up to $1,000 and no more than a year in jail.”

The article went on to mention that the CRS was sent to Sanford, Florida after the shooting of the 17-year-old black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012.

At the bottom of the article, writer Trymaine Lee included tweets from members of the news media and activists who were upset with the move.

Instead of covering this clear restriction of the press on an issue they offered plenty of coverage on when the story first broke, the networks found other stories to cover on their Monday evening newscasts. For example, both the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley and NBC Nightly News both covered the far-left protesters in New York City from Sunday and Monday as they attempted to bring attention to their global warming agenda and despisement of Wall Street. 

Meanwhile, ABC World News Tonight with David Muir found time to end its program on Monday night by showing the now-viral video from last week of a young girl throwing a baseball hit by New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter back onto the field after her father had gotten it when Jeter had hit it foul. The problem was solved when the ball was returned back to the family shortly after. 

— Curtis Houck is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Curtis Houck on Twitter.