U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

City manager threatens reporter, outlet with legal action

Incident Details

March 20, 2023

New York broadcast station News 12 Hudson Valley and one of its reporters were threatened with legal action in a statement released by Newburgh city officials on March 20, 2023.

In the statement, part of a press release around a crime-reduction operation with the FBI in 2022, City Manager Todd Venning asserted that a News 12 reporter created a “conspiracy theory” suggesting the City of Newburgh was falsifying crime and arrest data and failing to submit reports to the state. Venning indicated that the City will pursue legal recourse.

“Legitimate reporters from well-credentialed news organizations don’t always get it right, so it’s not surprising to see a local television personality struggle with basic tenets of professional journalism,” Venning said. “The City will explore its legal options against this presenter and News 12 for its reckless disregard of the truth.”

Venning was referencing News 12 reporter Blaise Gomez’s March 15 reporting in which she outlined a pattern of his office withholding information from the press and public. Gomez first reported on the lack of transparency nearly a year prior, writing that Venning had issued what amounted to gag orders and directed information requests to go through City Hall.

As part of Gomez’s reporting, she interviewed Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler. In a recording of the interview obtained by Mid Hudson News, Gomez asks multiple questions concerning allegations that Newburgh city officials are withholding information about crime in order to improve the city’s image. The interview did not include any mention of state or federal crime reporting requirements.

Gomez declined to comment, directing questions to News 12; the station did not respond to requests for comment.

When reached by phone, Venning told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker to direct all requests to [email protected]. The email to that address was returned as undeliverable. Michael Neppl, Venning’s chief of staff, responded after publication with an acknowledgement of requests for comment but provided no statement.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect a response from a City of Newburgh representative.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].