Several members of local media organizations, including Lagniappe, found themselves unceremoniously tossed out of a meeting with Gov. Kay Ivey last week after a reporter asked a question about construction of the proposed Interstate 10 bridge over the Mobile River.
On Aug. 9, Ivey visited Mobile as part of her “Listen, Learn, Help and Lead” tour of the state. Making several stops around Mobile, the governor was followed by members of the local media and asked about a variety of things. One of those was a question by WKRG-TV reporter Emily DeVoe about the status of the I-10 bridge. Ivey told DeVoe she and other area officials would be talking about the project during lunch and would answer questions about it afterward.
But when a roundtable discussion convened post-lunch, reporters were told their questions were not welcome. During a momentary lull in the action, though, DeVoe again tried to ask the governor about funding for the bridge, but before she even finished the question, press secretary Daniel Sparkman cut her off and ordered all members of the media out of the meeting.
One could argue as to whether DeVoe was out of line in asking a question when the media had been told not to ask anything. But certainly Sparkman decided on a bush league response that indicates he’s probably been watching too many White House press conferences. For its part, the governor’s office claimed reporters were only supposed to be in the discussion for a few minutes and the time limit just happened to hit in the middle of DeVoe’s question.
First of all, DeVoe’s question was hardly controversial or a “gotcha” question. Secondly, the governor had promised to address the matter and had discussed it with local officials during lunch.
The governor’s press guy might have been better served by simply reminding reporters no questions were being taken. He also might have been better served to remind himself that these reporters had been assigned to follow Ivey around on a tour that seemed primarily political in nature and was hardly big news. In essence, the media he threw out of the room were doing his governor a favor by following her around on a dog and pony show that included handing out a giant check to the University of South Alabama Medical Center.
Incidentally, the governor’s staff misspelled the words “University” and “Alabama” on the “to” line of that giant check. It wasn’t a good day for Ivey’s staffers all the way around.