Despite hurdles, reporters attend, cover Palin speech

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Despite efforts to keep reporters from attending Sarah Palin’s speech last night at a private college in southwest Missouri, some journalists managed to secure free tickets and covered the address “from the bleachers.”

The former Alaska governor gave the keynote address last night at the College of the Ozarks event during which she received a “Great American” award. College President Jerry Davis said Palin was the inaugural recipient of the award for her contributions to promoting patriotism, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

A spokeswoman for the Point Lookout school said the 4,000 free tickets allotted for the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate's speech in Keeter Gymnasium had gone quickly, along with another 1,000 spots in an adjacent overflow room where Palin's speech was shown on video.

Per Palin's request, reporters were not allowed inside the gym — or even on campus — unless they held tickets like the general public. The school said it agreed to keep out reporters to secure Palin's appearance.

The college also asked journalists not to report on Palin's address.

“I can't take their tickets and ask them to leave, but we have asked them (local reporters) not to (attend),” said college spokeswoman Elizabeth Andrews.

The News-Leader reported today that it and “other media outlets obtained free tickets and sent reporters to cover the speech from the bleachers.”

School officials declined to say how much they were paying for Palin's appearance, which was booked by the Washington Speakers Bureau. The college has previously hosted former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Army officials initially had barred media from attending a Palin book-signing event last week at North Carolina's Fort Bragg, fearing it might turn political and lead to negative comments directed at President Barack Obama. The Army later relented and allowed coverage of the event, at which Palin did not give a speech.