The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has written a letter asking the LDS Church to reconsider its ban on news photographers on Temple Square during LDS General Conference April 5-6.
Officials announced the prohibition in a March 17 letter, saying it is "consistent with long-standing policy." Yet while Utah news organizations understand they generally must obtain permission to shoot photos or video on Temple Square, photographers routinely have been allowed — and even encouraged — to shoot photos there during the semiannual meetings.
The change apparently is intended to deflect attention from the group Ordain Women during General Conference.
The ban on news photographers came as officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also formally rebuffed a second attempt by the group to attend the conference priesthood session, which is open only to men.
Church officials said members of Ordain Women may neither attend the meeting nor may they demonstrate on Temple Square.
Instead, the church in the letter asked members of the group to take any demonstration to the "free-speech zones adjacent to Temple Square, which have long been established for those wishing to voice differing viewpoints."
SPJ’s letter, sent Thursday to Michael Otterson, managing director of public affairs, points out the news value of General Conference.
"General Conference is an important event in Utah, and for Mormons throughout the world," it reads. "The journalists of this state want to tell the many stories arising from General Conference and to do so accurately, with balance and in the other best practices of journalism. Video and still photography are vital tools to accomplish those goals."
Utah SPJ understands Temple Square is private property, according to the letter. It seeks "only what the church has routinely allowed in the past: cameras free to enter Temple Square and tell the story of General Conference."
SPJ board member Nate Carlisle of The Salt Lake Tribune wrote the letter, which I signed, as vice president of the organization.
The majority of the board approved it, with a number of recusals by board members who work for organizations owned by the LDS Church.
They include Utah SPJ President Sheryl Worsley of KSL News Radio, McKenzie Romero of the Deseret News and Chad Curtis of Brigham Young University.
The LDS Church has received the letter and is reviewing it, spokesman Cody Craynor said Friday.
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