Freelance reporter in hot water over Republican dinner

Monitor staff
Published: 5/24/2017 10:12:49 PM

The New Hampshire Republican Party is trying to make a freelance reporter pay for covering a fundraiser that was closed to the press and featured presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway.

Melanie Plenda, who wrote a four-paragraph story for the Associated Press last week, said she was invited in by a guest. The NHGOP, however, accused her of sneaking in and is now planning to bill her the cost of a ticket, which ranged in price from $150 to $500, according to the online invitation.

“She owes us $500. I will be invoicing her,” NHGOP adviser Patrick Hynes said. “She was not allowed to be in there as press.”

While many state party events are open to media, “Spring to Victory,” featuring Conway, was closed to the press due to a mutual decision with the White House, Hynes said.

After Plenda’s story ran, the NHGOP began publicly accusing her of underreporting the crowd size and level of enthusiasm. They then sent out a fundraising email that pointed to her past social media posts as evidence of a “liberal” bias and questioned her credibility.

When the story was picked up by Breitbart News and other national outlets, Plenda began receiving threats and profanity-laced messages from strangers, she said. One man emailed Plenda calling her a “stupid s---” and saying, “We know where you live,” which led her to alert the Keene police.

“I didn’t do anything wrong; I wasn’t dishonest. I didn’t tell anyone anything untrue,” Plenda said in a phone interview Tuesday. “If I was off on the crowd count, I apologize; it was not on purpose.”

Plenda said she was never contacted by Hynes about the story. He said he spoke to an AP editor.

The AP issued a correction Wednesday afternoon, raising the number of attendees from the initially reported 150.

“The room, which seats about 500, was near capacity,” the story says now.

NHGOP Chairwoman Jeanie Forrester did not return a call for comment. Former party chairman Steve Duprey said that while he rarely closed events to press, it is the party’s right to do so.

“I don’t blame Republicans for being unhappy,” he said.

Former UNH journalism lecturer Meg Heckman said requests for corrections should be respectful and based in fact.

“If there was a factual error, absolutely go ahead and ask for a correction,” said Heckman, who will join Northeastern University later this year as an assistant professor of journalism. “That ask and that reaction should be proportionate to the situation and should be handled in a respectful way.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or

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