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Lunch at The Dinosaur Club

By Keith Cowing
June 30, 2011
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Keith’s update: The National Press Club (NPC) invited Charlie Bolden to speak at a luncheon and he accepted. No cost to NASA. NPC makes a lot of money renting out their rooms for press conferences and hosting these luncheons so having Bolden there is a guaranteed money maker. The original NPC notice for this event said it was for NPC members and their guests. That was eventually amended to say that the public could attend too (and pay $36) or watch the event on TV and web streaming. But no one will be allowed to ask Bolden questions directly. You have to submit them ahead of time and then NPC screens them and asks the questions they have selected.
They also added that the media could “cover” this too. When I inquired what media “coverage” meant they said that I had to have a “hard badge” credentials. When I asked them what credentials they mean (NPC, NASA, NASA Watch, etc.) they did not answer. NASA HQ has not issued “hard” media credentials for more than 5 years – so media who only cover NASA are not going to have these things. I asked NPC if I could simply make a laminated badge (as editor of NASA Watch) and credential myself (other media outlets/publications do this). I have asked them three times. No response. As such I have to assume that I will not be allowed on the premises to cover this event – but if I want to pay $36 (the food is awful so I never eat it) I can sit and listen but not ask questions.
How odd. The NPC is supposed to be promoting journalism and news coverage – yet they put a barrier between media who cover their events by requiring all questions be submitted in advance. In addition, they pick and chose as to what media allowed to “cover” the event based on whether or not they have some sort of laminated name tag (they are not exactly clear on where you get these tags). And those who do not meet their criteria have to pay money to have access to the government official who is speaking. What is really odd is that I have covered events at the NPC multiple times in the past decade and asked questions of the speakers. Now they suddenly go retro.
NPC is a business, so they need to make money I suppose. What is odd is how they hold themselves up as some sort of bastion of journalistic integrity and excellence when in fact they are stuck in the the way that the news media used to work – not the way that it actually works today. Its like having lunch at The Dinosaur Club – they follow a process that is quickly becoming extinct. They invite a newsmaker to their club and then go out of their way to prevent news media from doing their job i.e. covering (interacting) with that same guest. How this is promoting excellence in journalism and news coverage baffles me.
Funny thing: I have discovered that a number of reporters on the space beat are inclined to skip the event (since no questions will be allowed) and just watch it back in their office. So much for fostering interaction between newsmakers and reporters. Bolden is not expected to make any “news” either since nothing about SLS etc. is included in his prepared remarks and questions will be screened/filtered in advance.
The food (money making) part of the event begins at 12:30 pm EDT. Bolden’s remarks will begin just after 1:00 pm EDT, followed by a staged question-and-answer session. To submit a question in advance, type BOLDEN in the subject line and email before 10 am EDT tomorrow. The luncheon program will be on C-SPAN, NASA Television and webcast live via NPC.
You can follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #NPCLunch and at @PressClubDC. You can also submit questions during the live event by sending them to @QNPCLunch. I will be live tweeting the event at @NASAWatch
Shielding Bolden From Unfiltered Questions, Earlier post

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.