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Victory! Goldwater Compels School District to Stop Blacklisting Conservative Reporter

March 6, 2024

In a victory for free speech, the Goldwater Institute has compelled the Flagstaff Unified School District to stop unconstitutionally blacklisting a local Arizona radio host for his conservative views.

In December, Flagstaff resident and reporter Jeff Oravits, who hosts The Jeff Oravits Show on 97.1 FM, called the district to research a story about school bus service cutbacks. During that phone conversation, he asked to be added to the district’s “media list” – a list of reporters and media outlets the district uses to share press releases and other news and updates with journalists.

But the district’s director of communications and public relations refused Jeff’s simple request. The reason? Jeff’s radio program, in the director’s view, was a “partisan show” – whatever that means – and the district apparently only includes “non-partisan media” outlets on its media list.

But the First Amendment, as well as Arizona’s constitutional free speech protections, forbid government officials from discriminating against anyone based on their actual or perceived political viewpoints. In short, it’s totally unconstitutional for a public school district (or any other government entity) to refuse to share information with a reporter merely because it disagrees with his political viewpoints or perceives his work as “partisan.”

That’s why the Goldwater Institute fought back, sending the district a letter on Jeff’s behalf that called out the district’s actions as unconstitutional and demanded the district immediately “add Mr. Oravits to its media list and… provide him information to the same extent, and on the same terms, as any other journalist, regardless of his actual or perceived viewpoints.”

In response to Goldwater’s demand letter, the district has now provided the media releases that it previously failed to give Jeff, in addition to confirming that Jeff will “receive every press release the District prepares” in the future.

This is a victory not only for Jeff, but for all Arizonans, whose liberty depends on our constitutional rights being protected and on our government officials being held accountable. The Goldwater Institute will always fight to safeguard free speech and limited government, both in Arizona and across the nation.

John Thorpe is a Staff Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.



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