Journalist Emilie Raguso, who operates the crime and safety news site The Berkeley Scanner, was barred from attending a press conference on Nov. 29, 2023, with Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price. Three days later, the DA’s office announced that Raguso’s exclusion from the media list was an “oversight” and that she was “welcome” at future press events.
Raguso told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that though she launched The Scanner in 2022, she has covered crime and courts for more than a decade. But after she published an article in January including criticisms of Price, her office made it clear that it was displeased with Raguso’s coverage.
Raguso said that she was one of the few journalists who attended Price’s first press conference in March, and that everything had seemed to go normally.
“Afterward, people started getting in touch with me, saying, ‘She wanted to throw you out of that press conference,’” Raguso said, adding that she believed it was because of her prior reporting. “Fortunately some people who worked for her at the time were able to convince her that that was not appropriate.”
Throughout the summer, Raguso said she was removed from the DA’s media list multiple times, but was readded when she raised the issue. In October, she was told that the list — and her request to be included — was under review.
When Raguso learned from other journalists that Price was to hold a press conference on the morning of Nov. 29, she planned to attend.
“I thought there was a possibility they wouldn’t let me in, but I didn’t think it was a strong possibility because they don’t have a legal reason to do that,” Raguso said.
When Raguso arrived at the press conference, she was barred at the door due to unspecified “safety issues.” Raguso said that two individuals from the DA’s office recognized her as press but said that her credentials provided by the Oakland Police Department were insufficient. She added that nearly half a dozen other journalists were allowed in that day without being asked to show their credentials, and some without even signing a check-in sheet.
When Raguso saw Price exiting an elevator, she petitioned the district attorney directly to intervene and allow her to attend the press conference, but Price declined to do so.
A statement released by Price’s office the following day referred to Raguso as an “uninvited person” and The Scanner as simply a “blog.” It also asserted that the employees were enforcing credentialing standards that are “long-standing and predate the election of District Attorney Pamela Price.”
Following public outcry — including a letter penned by the First Amendment Coalition — Price’s office on Dec. 2 released a statement that Raguso would be added back to the media list and allowed to attend future press conferences. It said that Raguso’s removal from the media list, as well as that of local news website the Bay City News, had been an “oversight.”
The statement also noted that Price would be leading an effort to establish new media guidelines, saying that “this critical work is long overdue.” Price’s office did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Raguso told the Tracker that the main concern now is how the DA’s office will handle other reporters’ access moving forward. “Will people need to provide a credential? Or will people need to be on your email list to come to your press events? I asked that and they haven’t answered,” Raguso said.
She added that she thinks the DA’s office could retaliate against her in this way because the Scanner is a one-person operation.
“But they didn’t realize that there are so many people in the journalism world and in the First Amendment world and in the broader community who believe strongly in the First Amendment,” Raguso said, “and who understand that the government does not get to define and decide who gets to report the news.”