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NYSNYS NEWS INSIDE THE LCA: Year 2 of covid19 driving coverage of NYS government. Cuomo continues to mostly ignore the Albany press corps.
MASKED REPORTERS: Among the few reporters still working daily out of the LCA pressroom are David Lombardo and Tim Williams, the relatively new host and veteran producer of the daily "Capitol Pressroom" radio show broadcast by WCNY in Syracuse. They are seen here preparing for their show on December 28, 2020.

NYSNYS NEWS INSIDE THE LCA: Year 2 of covid19 driving coverage of NYS government. Cuomo continues to mostly ignore the Albany press corps.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 6, 2021) -- The Capitol and the LCA enters year two of covid19 as Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to mostly ignore the Albany press corps.


Covid19, year two

LCA reporters are facing the prospect of a second year of reporting for the public under difficult circumstances. The Capitol remains closed to the public, with most reporters working from home for news organizations that are struggling financially to survive. Regular interactions between reporters and government officials that help drive coverage remain limited, along with face to face contacts with ordinary people, staffers, advocates, lobbyists and a host of others they would normally come across in everyday life.

The Capitol shut down to all except those with pass cards in March 2020 and since then has been mostly deserted. In recent months, among the few reporters coming in on a daily basis to work are from WCNY's Capitol Pressroom daily radio show and Spectrum cable news. WCNY's David Lombardo and producer Tim Williams are in every day because their studio is located in the old partitioned Daily News office. "We tried to work remotely but it didn't work out," Williams said. They show has had only a handful of live guests since the covid19 shutdown of the Capitol, with most calling in.

Spectrum also is a presence, with a small studio built several years ago in the area where the bank of pay phones used to be located. Reporters Morgan McKay and Nick Reisman staff the bureau. Chief state news reporter Susan Arbetter continues to work from a temporary studio set up in her home.

Dan Clark of WMHT's New York Now weekly broadcast is also in most days, but that is about it. Others, including me, stop in every week or 10 days to find little has changed.

More reporters will be in now that session resumes, starting today. In anticipation of session, Tuesday saw a rare in person press conference, with the Senate GOP laying out its plans for the session.

The expectation is the legislative sessions will continue to be mostly virtual to prevent the spread of covid19, and much of the bill passing and work of the Legislature will be done with the completion of a new state budget in April. Lawmakers have delegated much decision making power to Cuomo during covid19.


Cuomo continues to ignore LCA

Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to mostly ignore LCA reporters.

He has ended in person press conferences in Albany, holding the last one on December 3, while still holding a few downstate. As a substitute, he holds Albany Red Room press conferences via the Zoom platform, along with telephone conference calls. They arrangement allows him to speak without interruption.

The remote format also allows him to call on favored reporters, ignoring the rest and preventing followup questioning since the mics are generally muted after the first question. Women reporters have complained that Cuomo appears to prefer being questioned by men, and calls on few woman journalists.

"Another @NYGovCuomo briefing where I was not called on to ask a question," WRGB's Ann McCloy, who has pressed Cuomo about covid19 and nursing homes, posted on Twitter Tuesday. "To date, I have never been called on during a phone or Zoom briefing. Last question I had was the first week of December during one of the last in-person briefings."

"Just 5 reporters were allowed to ask questions at today's @NYGovCuomo presser," the AP's Marina Villeneuve posted on Twitter after Cuomo's Tuesday Zoom press conference. "The governor didn't respond to a reporter's request to be able to ask follow-up Qs again. At least, several outlets from around the state were given a chance to ask Qs."

She was referring to Cuomo simply ignoring Newsday reporter Michael Gormley's request to let reporters ask followup questions.

Cuomo's new normal for accessibility is proving to be awkward. When the state was hit by a big snowstorm at the end of 2021, Cuomo had the State Police transport him to Kingston for an in person press conference on covid19 and storm preparation. Only one reporter appeared to be present to ask a question during a Q&A that lasted just 1 minute.

Cuomo has not called into the Capitol Pressroom daily radio show since February 1, 2019. He continues to call in to WAMC public radio, where he is warmly welcomed by Alan Chartock, the station president who is the featured host, public face of the NPR outlet and a fan of the Cuomo family. Chartock, who had a show with Mario Cuomo for years, turns 80 this year and works remotely from his home in the Berkshires.

Meanwhile, Cuomo aides go online to berate reporters and others challenging the governor. "You monopoly men impersonators are out of your goddamn minds," spokesman Rich Azzopardi posted on Twitter after an NY Post story about Cuomo and covid19 unemployment benefits. "You’d think @TomPreciousALB, who has covered Albany for 100 years, would know that. Willfully ignorant?" Secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa posted in response to an item about Cuomo's disclosure of income from his book lauding his leadership during covid19.