- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

If the conventional wisdom of media bias is true, then no one should have been happier with Sen. James M. Jeffords' recent defection from the Republican Party than the press.
Instead, Capitol Hill reporters found themselves nearly bowled over by a land-grab by Democratic leaders — now controlling the Senate because of Mr. Jeffords' move — hungry for more office space.
"We would never think of doing something that dumb," said one House Republican press secretary.
In question is whether two offices, one used by magazine reporters another by photographers, will be taken over by the secretary of the Senate. The offices sit across the hall from the Senate chamber's third-floor viewing galleries.
The secretary of the Senate's offices are being moved to give more room to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and to create a new meeting room off the Senate floor for all senators.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, announced a week ago that the Periodical Press Gallery and the Photographers Gallery — as the two offices are formally named — would be cleared of reporters and photographers within 48 hours, but a storm of protest prompted him to back off.
Instead, he will meet with representatives from all the press galleries on Tuesday to decide whether periodical reporters and photographers must be absorbed by the broadcast and daily press galleries.
This would not be the first time Democrats have given reporters short shrift.
In 1969, House Speaker John McCormack, Massachusetts Democrat, unpleased with the coverage he was receiving, summarily tossed magazine reporters from their office off the House chamber. The staff for the Periodical Press Gallery stayed on the rolls, but it was six months before a new office on a back corridor was found for the reporters.
Republicans appear to have gone out of their way to help reporters over the years, say some observers.
"It's as if Democrats take the press for granted and Republicans are constantly seeking to curry favor," said one long-time Senate employee.
It was then-Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, Tennessee Republican, who in 1986 moved radio and television reporters from their relatively cramped quarters into their current location.
And in 1995 and 1996, the media's relationship with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican, was often adversarial. Even so, Mr. Gingrich often had Georgia-grown peanuts for reporters to eat while staking out meetings in his office. And during one particularly grueling day of budget negotiations, Mr. Gingrich bought pizza for the crowd that had amassed outside his suite of rooms.
More recently, then-Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican, twice sent pizzas to reporters covering Senate deliberations. Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, sent cases of Bethlehem, Pa.-produced Peeps, and Mike and Ike's candy for dessert.
The Republican press secretary said going the extra mile with reporters is always a good idea. A good deed can convince a dubious reporter that you do not have ill intent, the press secretary said. And at the very least, it can be satisfying to know that you have been unfailingly polite to someone who has been less kind, the press secretary said.
A Democratic press secretary said Republicans may be going out of their way to dispel the media's distrust for conservatives. But, the press secretary said, there is no real proof of Democrats sabotaging the media.
The Democrat noted that a number of Democratic press secretaries had been actively trying to help reporters in the galleries since Mr. Dodd's announcement.
"You have given me three examples from the past [30 years]. I don't think that suggests a trend," the Democrat said.

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