From the first moments of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration, when he initially declared his midnight swearing-in off limits to the media, he has established a record of frequently conducting public business in private, with dozens of events closed to the press.
In nearly five months in office, Mr. de Blasio barred the media from 53 events and limited access to 30 more, an Associated Press analysis of Mr. de Blasio's schedule shows. On a handful of days, his entire schedule was off limits. All told, more than 20% of his listed events were closed to the media.
Events in which reporters were notified of their existence but prevented from attending ranged from meetings with government figures such as the mayor of Seattle and Israel's minister of foreign affairs to sit-downs with the NBA commissioner, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Russian band Pussy Riot.
Often, the mayor's photographer later published images from those so-called private meetings, meaning that an official image of the event is the only one that exists. It's a tactic President Barack Obama has also used while restricting access to events in the White House and around the world. Several news organizations, including the AP, refuse to distribute such handout images from Mr. Obama or Mr. de Blasio.
Mr. de Blasio, a populist Democrat who campaigned with promises of an open administration, said in a news conference in Brooklyn on Tuesday that he "believes deeply in transparency" and that his administration could do better.
"We believe there is a whole swath of information that needs to be available to the public and we need to continue to do a better job on that," he said. "There is a lot of day-to-day government business that is appropriately disclosable that we need to be better at."
Mr. de Blasio's spokesman noted that any limits imposed on reporters are largely due to logistics, not secrecy.
But some media watchdogs worry that the restrictions in New York reflect a larger trend of government officials limiting access to the media while getting their message out to constituents directly via Twitter, Facebook and their own websites.
"It's easier to manage the message if you leave the media out of it," said Hunter College professor Jamie Chandler.
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