The U.S. Senate Press Gallery has ejected ConsumerAffairs.com reporter Joe Enoch after his credentials expired and Gallery officials refused to renew them.
Enoch receives the Buffalo News Award from publisher Stanford Lipsey
As a result of the ejection, Enoch is no longer able to cover Congressional action on consumer issues like food safety, consumer protection for airline passengers and the confirmation hearings for Michael Baroody, President Bush's nominee to chair the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Enoch was honored last year when he was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Buffalo News Award for excellence in enterprise and investigative reporting. He was nominated for the award by the faculty of the Russel J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communications at St. Bonaventure University.
Besides his coverage of consumer issues in Congress, Enoch has broken stories dealing with Blue Hippo Funding; High Tech Pets, Northern Nevada Telecom and other telephone "cram artists;" and the widespread but little recognized safety issues involving the lithium ion batteries used in millions of laptop computers and cell phones.
The Senate Press Gallery offered no formal reason for the ejection, although Gallery employee Joe Keenan has questioned whether ConsumerAffairs.com is a "legitimate journalistic enterprise."
"The Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of the press to everyone; it does not establish a legitimacy litmus test," said James R. Hood, founder and editor in chief of ConsumerAffairs.com.
"The Press Gallery concept is a throwback to the days of smoke-filled rooms and inside-the-Beltway deal-making. It is clearly unconstitutional for a government employee like Mr. Keenan or a self-appointed gaggle of scribes to decide who is and who is not a 'legitimate' journalist," Hood said.
Founded in 1998, ConsumerAffairs.com covers consumer news and safety recalls and also publishes selected consumer reviews from its database of more than 200,000 reader submissions.
In a conversation with Hood, Keenan said he had "questions about ConsumerAffairs.com's 'business model.'"
Hood said that ConsumerAffairs.com's "business model" was simple: "We try to bring in enough money from advertising each month to keep the lights on."
He said the company was a for-profit "Class C" California corporation, required to pay federal, state and city taxes.
"Unlike some of our critics, we don't solicit contributions from political pump-primers and we don't suck up to big-money interests or lecture the rest of the press on how they ought to write their stories or earn their daily bread," Hood said.
"The Congress of the United States is a public institution. If it is open to any journalist, it must be open to all. We don't license journalists in this country," said Hood, formerly the top editor for the Associated Press' broadcast news operations.
Hood is the co-author of the AP Broadcast News Handbook, a journalism primer used in classes and newsrooms worldwide. He directed coverage of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the shooting of President Reagan and the Pope and the hijacking of a TWA jet to Beirut that galvanized the world in the 1980s.
He was later Senior Vice President of United Press International and founder and president of Zapnews, a news-wire service that grew to serve more than 1,000 broadcasters and publishers before being sold to Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network and later to ABC News.
"I am very proud of the work our barely-paid reporters and contributors do. The fact that they work for a Web site and not a newspaper or magazine is irrelevant," Hood added.
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