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Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Zack Seward
Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Zack Seward

Why there's less press access under Cuomo

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Governor Andrew Cuomo is keeping a firm grip over communication between state agencies and journalists, an Albany newspaper is reporting. The Times Union says that when reporters contact the state's various agencies and experts, the central office must approve the communication before they can respond.

Cuomo's media policies came under scrutiny when a Department of Transportation engineer from Essex County was recently forced to retire. Mike Fayette spoke with a reporter from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, without first getting approval.

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Reported by

Julie Grant
Reporter and Producer

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Times Union reporter Jimmy Vielkind looked into the governor's press policies for the story, which appeared on Sunday, March 3. He says as soon as Cuomo took office, his aides started coordinating the state agencies to manage communications.

Vielkind says a state agency or expert can no longer just talk with a reporter who calls about a story. The agency first needs approval from the central administration.

"Well it's certainly been frustrating at times to try to get information from a state agency and to sometimes see a tangible delay. So it's something I have seen and is something that I think is noticeable."

He said a more centralized system could impact more than just reporters: "Journalists are the conduit between state leaders and the general public. The general public needs information about what's going on. The general public needs information about what its government is doing, how it's spending its tax dollars. So I think there's certainly cause for frustration or concern among the general public."

Vielkind says some of the new press policies could save the state money.  For example, a company called readMedia used to have separate contracts with various state agencies.  The agencies would send press releases to readMedia, and the company would send those releases to journalists.  A spokesperson at the governor's office says the state has now created an internal system to provide a similar service. 

Vielkind says efforts like this are expected to save the state $350,000 a year.

NOTE: This story has been partially rewritten for clarification.

To hear a conversation between Julie Grant and Jimmy Vielkind about whe he discovered about press access to New York state agencies, clik on "listen" above.

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