The board in charge of cleaning up Albany extended its claws into newsrooms Tuesday, requiring public-relations consultants to report as lobbyists if they try to influence editorial writers.
The redefinition of lobbying to include contact between journalists and consultants, reported byCrain’s this month and since amended to apply only to editorials, passed the Joint Commission on Public Ethics by a 10-3 vote.
Public-relations firms and free-speech advocates roundly condemned the proposal, saying it infringes on unfettered communication between citizens and the press. Consulting group The November Team released a statement Tuesday, declaring it would "refuse to comply" with the guideline, which was then approved despite intense opposition from the communications industry.
Andrew Celli, whose law firm wrote a letter opposing the change on behalf of four New York public-relations companies, said the commission "failed even to address the core issues" he and others raised.
"Newspaper editorials are part of the firmament of public discussion," Celli said. "The idea that that is going to be overseen by an administrative body in Albany is deeply concerning."
JCOPE wrote in its Jan. 19 update of its proposal that the change is "in no way intended to restrict a reporter’s ability to gather information or to seek comment from representatives of advocacy groups as part of reporting the news."
"Rather, this is intended to generate transparency in the activities of paid media consultants who are hired to proactively advance their client’s interests through the media," the committee wrote in a footnote.
The decision will likely be challenged in court.