Miami Herald by David Smiley
March 28, 2020
A reporter for the state capital bureau operated jointly by two of Florida’s largest newspapers was denied access Saturday to a press conference by Gov. Ron DeSantis detailing the state’s latest efforts to contain one of the largest outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in the country.
Mary Ellen Klas, the Herald’s bureau chief for the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau, said she was refused entry into the Capitol in Tallahassee to attend a press briefing by the governor, lieutenant governor, director of emergency management and state surgeon general regarding COVID-19 testing, access to medicine and efforts to prevent New Yorkers from flying into the state.
On Twitter, Klas said a reporter for the News Service of Florida was told that he would be shut out as well if he insisted that Klas be allowed to cover the press conference in person. She posted a video of Meredith Beatrice, a state spokeswoman, explaining that Klas could view the press conference on a state-sponsored public affairs media service that live streams state government events.
“It’s available via Florida Channel. We’re providing the satellite coordinates,” Beatrice said, declining to address Klas’ question about who decided she could not attend. “I have nothing else to add.”
Klas said later in an interview that Beatrice also told her the state was refusing her access into the Capitol because she had requested “social distancing” at the governor’s briefings. Days earlier, Klas asked that the governor’s staff help protect reporters by holding Zoom-style video conference press briefings so that questions could be asked without requiring reporters to gather in close proximity.