ANNAPOLIS – Traditional Maryland Senate ways came into conflict with modern pocket-camera technology Monday night when the chamber’s longtime president admonished a Daily Record reporter who used an iPhone to record floor proceedings.
President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., having seen Bryan P. Sears record a speech by Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, told the reporter from the rostrum of a longstanding rule requiring media to get permission to take video from the press area.
“It’s an old law; it’s archaic; maybe we need to change it,” Miller said Monday night. “We don’t take film of the senators.”
Miller referred to Senate Rule 10(e), which states that “cameras, recording instruments, and similar equipment or electronic devices are not permitted in the Senate Chamber without the permission of the President. If permission is given, the President immediately shall notify the Senators.”
(The House of Delegates limits cameras to a designated area on the chamber’s floor and media box in the gallery. The speaker must give permission before any photographs or videos are taken.)
Miller’s office said in a statement Tuesday that “this rule is intended to maintain decorum so there is no interference between the filming and senators engaging in legislative proceedings and debate. As the Senate continues to evaluate these rules, any suggestions as to how this can be maintained while still allowing full access to Senate proceedings by the media would, of course, be welcome.”
Sears, who has covered the State House for 15 years, said he was surprised by the president’s admonition, as the rule had not been enforced against the reporter in the five years he has been recording Senate proceedings.
“This rule was probably a good idea when it was put in place a number of years ago, but the profession of journalism has evolved with technology and there is little differentiation between a television reporter and print and radio reporters who are now also asked to shoot photos and video and produce news across a number of social media platforms,” Sears said Tuesday. “The old rules simply do not apply any longer.”
The executive director of the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association agreed.
“We are becoming a more increasingly visual society,” Rebecca Snyder said Tuesday.
“Journalists tell stories and they need video to elucidate,” she added. “Nowhere is that more important than the floor sessions in the Senate and House.”
Earlier this General Assembly session, Sears videotaped floor proceedings as senators held hands during a prayer for six Baltimore children killed in a house fire. Sears’ videotape was later broadcast on two Baltimore-area television newscasts, without any objection from the Senate, he said.
Sears did not surreptitiously record either the prayer or Pinsky’s speech deriding President Donald Trump’s detention of foreign nationals at U.S. airports, the reporter said, adding he was standing in the Senate’s open press area with his iPhone in front of his face.
Sears said his viewers would never have seen the Senate prayer or Pinsky’s speech had he been required to get prior permission as both events were not announced ahead of time.
“There would have been no way for me to seek permission for events that spontaneously occurred,” Sears said.
Sears said that at no time did he regard Miller as disrespectful toward him, adding that the president’s staff has been open to discussing the reporter’s concerns about limits on recording Senate proceedings.
“They are acting and speaking with us in good faith on this issue,” Sears said.