For nearly 30 years the City of Greensboro has provided a table for the media in what is now the Katie Dorsett Council Chamber.
The size and location of that table has moved with renovations of the Council Chamber, but a workspace for the media has always been available. When the press table was first provided, there was no need for electrical outlets or internet connections because journalists took notes with pen and paper.
However, according to a press release from the City of Greensboro on Friday, March 18, the media will no longer have a work space in the Council Chamber. In fact, according to the press release, the media will now be banned from the Council Chamber and will be expected to cover the meetings from the balcony.
The press release states, “All media representatives covering Greensboro City Council meetings will now be located in the balcony, overlooking the Katie Dorsett Council Chamber. A table has been installed in the balcony area for print media with the appropriate power connections. The previous media seating will now be used for City staff who have items on the Council agenda.”
The decision was made by City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba, who said that in his four meetings as city manager, “I noticed staff presenters had to walk a far distance to get to the podium.”
Jaiyeoba said that he would like to have his staff closer to him and the podium during meetings.
What used to be the press table is in the row behind the city manager, city attorney and deputy city manager and right next to the podium, which will be more convenient for staff.
However, the reason that city staff members have to walk so far to get to the podium is because the reserved seating for city staff is as far from the podium as it is possible to be and still be in the Council Chamber.
Jaiyeoba also said that if placing the media in the balcony area did not work out that he would take another look at it.
The meetings being covered are City Council meetings and not city staff meetings, so one might assume that the City Council would have some say in who can and cannot attend their meetings, but not in this case.
After the press release was sent out, Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “I had no idea about the memo banishing the print press to the mezzanine. I’m not sure why that was necessary. It hasn’t been an issue.”
She added, “I don’t know why it’s necessary to put a further barrier between the City Council and the media. I didn’t know there was even a discussion about it.”
Since the City Council has returned again to meeting in the Katie Dorsett Council Chamber, the only print media that has had a representative at the meetings has been the Rhino Times.