by Scott McClallen
Riverview City Council updated its recording restrictions last week after past meeting disruptions.
Mayor Andrew Swift told The Center Square the new restrictions followed an altercation in which a reporter approached the study table mid-meeting and cursed at a council member.
That reporter has regularly interrupted city council meeting and study sessions for over a year to take pictures and walk around, Swift said.
That reporter usually sits in the front row and records the meetings.
“That’s fine, and we’re totally comfortable with that,” Swift said. “The policy change was because she continues to walk around the room to try to get better pictures.”
Swift said the rules are to discourage distractions, not reporters.
The updated rules changed “camera” to “recording device,” and added that the video recording device must remain “seated and stationary” on a tripod.
That’s one rule with which she disagrees, Swift said, because council members sometimes have their back to the audience when speaking.
Riverview City Council recording restrictions:
- Recording devices can be used only in a “designated area.”
- People recording must remain “seated and stationary.”
- Equipment should be set up before meetings after checking with the City Clerk to meet safety regulations such as no cords across the floor.
- Cameras must remain on tripods.
- No flash photography.
- No “additional microphones” beyond those directly attached to recording device.
Most of these rules remained from the 1990s.
The allegedly disruptive reporter, Sue Suchyta, told The Center Square that the rules restrict her professional work, such as when she needs to verify names or ask follow-up questions.
“If I can’t walk over to the person and whisper to them, and ask how they spell their name, and write it in my notes, then I am missing crucial information for my news coverage,” Suchyta said.
Suchyta said that forcing equipment to be cleared with the City Clerk before meetings violates the Open Meetings Act because it could prevent the media from attending and recording the meetings.
Michigan’s Open Meetings Act allows people to record public meetings but allows local government to “establish reasonable rules and regulations in order to minimize the possibility of disrupting the meeting.”
Suchyta said that the media is now so visual that she has to provide quality photos with her stories, and that the rule against standing and walking around is “unreasonable.”
“When the city manager, Doug Drysdale, makes statements to other reporters saying that the new rules came about ‘because of disruptions to our meetings by a certain reporter,’ then he is basically admitting that he is trying to limit press access by retaliating against a reporter that is paying more attention to their actions than they want to occur,” she said.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.