By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — As I was being turned away twice last week from covering the taxpayer-supported White Privilege Conference, I was assured no other media outlet would be reporting on the event.
My intuition told me otherwise, and it turned out to be correct.
The progressive Capital Times, which wrote a handful of glowing stories and editorials leading up to the four-day convention in Madison, published a piece Saturday describing how the workshops and discussions left the record-number crowd informed and inspired.
That would seem to contradict what I was told by Stephanie Puentes, a conference media representative who offered up plenty of quotes for the Capital Times’ Saturday story.
Puentes informed me on both Thursday and Friday I wasn’t allowed access to the convention, which explores the concept that minorities don’t have the same privileges as white people, because I didn’t register ahead of time — even though I had attempted to do so.
I also was barred from the lobby of the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center to interview attendees.
“The only way that I could possibly let you stay is if you had a name badge that said ‘press’ on it, and I can’t give you one of those if you’re not registered for the conference,” Puentes told me.
If the Capital Times didn’t sign up in advance, why were they granted permission to provide coverage?
Phone calls and emails left Monday with the main offices of the White Privilege Conference were not returned.
There’s a chance that Pat Schneider, author of the Capital Times story, could’ve registered as an individual and failed to disclose on the proper documents that she was a local reporter.
I tried to find out if that was the case, but I didn’t hear back from Schneider after trying to contact her Saturday and Monday. A voicemail left Monday with the Capital Times newsroom also went unreturned.
Nevertheless, that possibility doesn’t seem very likely — or excusable — because Puentes should’ve known Schneider was a reporter when they were participating in their interview.
A sensible person would conclude the Capital Times was allowed to report on the conference because of its past coverage, and Wisconsin Reporter was shut out because of its previous stories critical of taxpayer money being used to fund the gathering.
That belief was reinforced to me when Puentes remarked she was familiar with Wisconsin Reporter shortly after telling me Thursday to leave the building.
It appears the White Privilege Conference doesn’t want taxpayers to know how their money is being spent.
Contact Adam Tobias at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Scoop_Tobias