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Strickland should do the right thing, and return MLK50 to the city’s media list

Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on a local news outlet being left off the city of Memphis contact list.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration has been making good decisions of late – particularly involving Memphis’ response to the coronavirus pandemic. But for the life of me, I cannot understand why city officials are penalizing a local news organization by refusing to include it on a media contact list.

I’m referring to the online news site MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Apparently, the city has denied repeated requests to add MLK50’s founder Wendi Thomas and managing editor Deborah Douglas to the list of media outlets that receive advisories and updates from city government.

This week, a lawyer for a national media rights group brought the issue to the attention of a Memphis federal judge. The lawyer said the city is likely violating a 1978 consent decree by interfering with MLK50’s press freedoms under the First Amendment. And the reason appears to be that city officials believe Thomas and her new site are biased against the administration. If that’s true, it’s a ridiculous excuse, and paints Strickland’s administration as being petty.

MLK50 has been critical of city government. But so what. So have I at times. The news site, which had been on the list, has done some outstanding journalism in recent months – and has partnered with other news organizations, including the Commercial Appeal and ProPublica.

Strickland should do the right thing, and return MLK50 to the city’s media list. Anything less – is pure pettiness. And that’s my point of view.

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