News

Harrisburg mayor shuts out Patriot-News/PennLive

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jun 14, 2016 4:18 PM
Harrisburg_eric-Papenfuse.jpg

(Harrisburg) -- Harrisburg's mayor is picking a fight with the region's most prominent newspaper.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse is reportedly barring PennLive and the Patriot-News from a weekly media briefing, and has instructed his spokeswoman to ignore requests from its reporters.

Mayor Papenfuse said in an earlier statement that he believes the newspaper "traffics in hate speech and cynicism", but didn't elaborate further.

Editor Cate Barron says he may be referring to its comment section, which she admits can get "pretty rough".

But she also says staff are devoted to policing it, and anonymous commenting protects people who may otherwise be afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation.

Papenfuse's move comes as presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has blocked Washington Post reporters from his campaign events.

Editor Cate Barron says Papenfuse's move may actually be worse.

"Mayor Papenfuse, however, is serving at the will of the people, and his spokeswoman, his whole operation are funded by taxpayer money. I just don't see how limiting this, from the area's biggest media company, will do any good to anyone," says Barron.

Barron says PennLive and the Patriot-News have three or four big stories on the city coming, and they'll continue to pursue them.

Adds Barron: "We're not going to let up on stories that we have in the hopper. We've just come off a spate of decent stories. Of course we want the city's comment on this, we want to get their side of issues, but that shouldn't stop us from being able to cover a lot of important issues in town."

In recent months, PennLive has reported that the bookstore owned by Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, Midtown Scholar, paid an $1,800 fine to resolve overtime claims.

It also has found that Papenfuse and his wife own eight properties near bars that the city is trying to close because it considers them a nuisance.

Barron also says reporters will still try to attend a weekly media briefing. Barron says Patriot-News/PennLive hasn't decided whether it will take legal action to stop the ban.

A spokeswoman for Harrisburg Mayor Papenfuse did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

The story has been clarified to note that the city is trying to close the bars, not Mayor Papenfuse himself.

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