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Media complain about restrictions at President Obama event in Tampa

A dozen banquet tables were set up for reporters in the back of the Hillsborough Community College gymnasium. Two bleacher risers held TV cameras. The media section was cordoned off from the members of the public. Reporters couldn't leave their designated areas, campaign officials said.

"It's like being in jail," said Janelle Irwin, a radio reporter for WMNF, 88.5 FM. "You can't interview anyone."

Actually, reporters could sidle up the guard rails separating them from the public and wave over people. Still, some reporters felt it cramped their style.

"It sucks for reporters," said Mitch Perry, the political editor for Creative Loafing. "It's a funky set-up. I don't like it."

Obama campaign officials said the set-up was standard. If the media area wasn't cordoned off, reporters would complain that there was no designated area, they said.

-- Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer