NEW BEDFORD - All across the country this weekend, Americans are commemorating the anniversary of President Donald Trump's inauguration in some form or fashion. Continued supporters, obviously, are celebrating Trump's one year in office. Many others are holding events to bring to light issues they feel are being ignored or haven't been fully addressed by the administration.

In New Bedford, a Women's Forum and Persisterhood Luncheon was scheduled for Saturday, January 20. The event preceded a march throughout downtown where women, men, and children were encouraged to participate. However, the forum itself was to be a female-only event:

Join us for a curated discussion on Southcoast Women's Issues including misogyny in the workplace, biased local media, public safety and more. Please RSVP using the google form. Lunch will be served. Part of the Weekend of Women 2018. Open to Female and non-binary individuals. Men who wish to participate should join the march at 2pm and activism meetup at 3pm following this event. Free to attend.

Women's Forum & PerSisterhood Luncheon

Our staff in the WBSM Newsroom was aware of the specifics of the event, and noted that members of the press were invited to attend. After further inquiry, we were notified that only female members of the press would be able to cover the forum. Remaining press members (men) were invited to cover the march at 2 p.m., with a wrap-up meeting at 3 p.m.

WBSM News asked if one of our male reporters would be allowed to cover the forum. Organizer and City Councilor Dana Rebeiro politely denied media access to any of our male reporters, and suggested that this would be an event befitting of a female intern.

Admittedly, we have no female reporters. This is not by choice. During hiring processes in my less than two years as the News Director for WBSM, I have not come across an application from a female seeking employment. However, Townsquare Media New Bedford, the division of our company that operates WBSM-AM and WFHN-FM, employs 19 women and 17 men.

WBSM's News Team, for the most part, was under other obligations, including necessary duties within the radio station and other part-time jobs. That left myself to cover the event on what would typically be my day off. I also had obligations later in the day that prevented me from attending the 2 p.m. march and the 3 p.m. follow-up meeting, so I opted to attend the female-only forum as a completely objective reporter, not as a participant.

My job, when covering any event, is to be completely impartial and report exactly what happens. Realizing I am a protected member of the press, as defined by The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, I hoped there would be no issue in covering what was sure to be a very important discussion. I was further assured of my rights as the meeting was to take place at the Bristol Community College campus, a state-funded and public building, in downtown New Bedford. U.S. Code Title 42, Chapter 21 prohibits discrimination against persons based on gender, age, disability, race, national origin, and religion (among other things) in a number of settings including: education, employment, access to businesses and buildings, federal services, and more.

As I entered the BCC campus several minutes before the 11 a.m. forum, I was cheerfully greeted by several women at the registration table. I asked if I was able to register and, with permission, did so. I was also asked if I would be joining the women for lunch. I politely declined the offer. One of the women even recognized me, and expressed what a delight it was that we had the opportunity to meet. I was equally delighted.

It was only several moments after I entered the meeting space that I was asked to step into the hallway to speak with Councilor Dana Rebeiro. She expressed that this was to be an all-female forum, and politely asked that I respect that. I stated my rights as a member of the press, not as a male participant, to fairly and objectively cover the event. After a brief exchange, Councilor Rebeiro left me in the hallway, but not before thanking me for my respect of the women that were about to meet inside. Not wanting to cause a scene and take away from the importance of the forum, I abided by the request (against my wishes as a reporter) and left.

As I walked back to my vehicle, I called a fellow reporter at The Standard Times. The reporter, who also happens to be a male, stated that he was also not granted access to the meeting. However, he said a female member of The Standard Times' digital team was allowed to stay in the forum to cover the event in full.

I was deeply disappointed that I was denied access to the forum, where I can only assume that many topics that are important to both women and men were discussed at great length. I was denied not as a member of the media, but as a male member of the media. From what I can tell, this was an illegal action of discrimination based on gender in a public facility.

Perhaps the described encounter was the intent of the exclusion. I've never been dicriminated against because of my genetic makeup, but now I know what it feels like. It's further maddening that my rights as a member of the press to cover an event where the press had been invited were politely suppressed.

Let me state that it was WBSM News' full intention to provide fair coverage to what we deem a very important topic. We were unable to provide you with that coverage due to what we believe were discriminatory and unfair practices by the organizers of this public event held on public property where members of the press were invited to attend, as long as they were female.

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