Reporter Ryan Cooper, in a letter to the editor in today's Springfield News-Leader, says former Attorney General John Ashcroft's tactics in prohibiting cameras and other electronic newsgathering devices at his speech at Missouri State University last week was a miserable failure:
Maybe he didn't want the public to know that the Juanita K. Hammons auditorium was less than half full. Students required to attend for a class assignment and members of Ashcroft's religious faith composed most of the audience.for being biased. It's easier to hate the invisible boogeyman than to tell the truth.
Had cameras been allowed, the public would have seen that the three co-sponsoring student groups had little to do with this event. Other than a brief mention during Greer's 20 minute introduction, group members were practically invisible. No students shared the stage with Greer and Ashcroft.
Maybe (Dr. Olan) Greer had a good reason for the media blackout. It didn't work. Even with limited equipment, we still covered the event. Greer's antics, rather than Ashcroft and his remarks, are now the main focus of media attention.
Rather than blame Greer for his poor media relations, local conservatives will blame the media
Cooper is right. Even my mentions on this blog about Ashcroft's tactics have brought the usual knee-jerk anti-media (and anti-Turner Report) comments. Ashcroft professes to love this country, and I am sure he does, but one of the things that makes this country great is that no one citizen, even a former attorney general, is above scrutiny, especially when he is using taxpayer-financed facilities.
On the other hand, if the whole plan was to bring attention to Ashcroft's Springfield appearance, it was a brilliant media ploy. Ashcroft's speech would have drawn limited attention without the electronic blackout.