COBB County, Ga. (CBS46) -- In an intimidating and unfortunate display of obstructing a working journalist, Cobb County Schools instructed its officers to remove CBS46 Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Carlson and his photographer from district headquarters, a building open to the public. All because he was simply attempting to ask questions of school officials after two teachers were arrested in separate incidents of alleged violence or cruelty towards students.
Multiple attempts for comment were made by phone and email before arriving at the district. And the district has previously refused to cooperate and be transparent.
At least one officer with the Cobb County School District Police Department got heated towards the crew, although the primary officer addressing Carlson acted professionally.
The three officers arrived within minutes of us showing up to question taxpayer paid district employees about the recent newsworthy events impacting the safety of students.
Officers said because we did not have an appointment, we couldn’t remain in the public lobby, where other members of the public--including district parents--appeared to be sitting.
We offered to peacefully wait for communications staff to return to address us.
Officers were not able to say if every member of the public was required to have an appointment before entering.
Once we left the building, officers guarded the door and clearly decided who they wanted to let in.
In September, another CBS46 reporter did a story on a district matter, in which the district took issue with our reporting. Today, they sent us a written statement, saying in part:
“...Due to specific and repeated concerns with accuracy in reporting, the Cobb County School District will not participate in CBS 46’s stories..."
CBS46 attorneys have contacted the district, and released the following statement:
"The First Amendment guarantees media access to public places just like anyone else. If a government building – like a school district office – is open to the public, it is open to the media. The government can’t make one set of rules for the public and a different set of rules for the media, or pick and choose which media are allowed access and which aren’t. This is because when the government gets to decide who gets to report the news and who doesn’t, and punishes reporters who are critical of government by cutting off their access, we all lose: the media is no longer the public’s watchdog, only sanitized news about the government gets reported, and the public is in the dark about how their own government is working for them or not."