July 6, 2005

To know or not to know?
Journalist behind bars

It's a mess, but somebody has got to stand up for a free press these days.

All day at work, we kept tabs on this story. Sidebar: The best part about working at the Trib is the access to the wire where reporters are given first dibs on stories right after they are written--faster than Google News.

What kept us riveted is the fact that journalist rights are again being questioned, which means the public's right to know is, as well.
On the news tonight, the reporter said that several states have journalistic laws, but a federal law does not exist. Hmm. I guess the Bill of Rights doesn't count.

This story reminded me of the legal seminar I attended at Seton Hill in June. Speakers from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association outlined the state's laws concerning the press and the few cryptic laws that protect journalists (Right to Know and Shield Law).

Just an FYI, but Pennsylvania has some of the sketchiest media legislation in the country. The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association lecturer had to go through each piece of legislation line-by-line and tell us the implications and multiple meanings of each sentence. Then we went through individual cases that have addressed these laws, and it is bleak almost always for journalists.

One of the best parts of the seminar was when she addressed what pieces of information journalists are entitled to see and which ones we are not, specifically with private organizations and non-profits.

After attending this seminar and watching Miller walk away from the courthouse today, I realized this could happen to any journalist. However a journalist with tact and lots of feedback from other writers and editors may sidle away from something like this...hopefully.

Confidentiality for sources is a great method of finding the truth, but at the same time, reporters should evaluate the motives for a source's information. As one reporter on ABC News claimed tonight, she was digging up dirt, rather than being a whistle-blower, which he said is a more reasonable cause.

As a die-hard dirt-digger, I do understand, to as certain degree, the ambition and amazing payoff fueling her, especially while working for the New York Times. The pressure must be overwhelming to get the story right and as exclusive as possible with the people directly involved.

But I think she may have stuck her foot too deep in the dirt and now it's raining, sucking her into the mud of federal politics. Maybe the prosecutors, who have been investigating, well, nothing, will dig a tunnel out for her.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at July 6, 2005 8:16 PM | TrackBack

Good to see you tackling serious issues, A. I hope this trend keeps up.

Posted by: Neha at July 9, 2005 2:19 AM

Actually, Neha, I have been told that I shouldn't tackle controversial topics on my blog (by various sources), because of my field and the objective stance that people in the news profession need.

I have deleted entire entries because of that reason.

Believe me, I do have my own opinions, but I am also aware that I may be called to report on the same topic some time in the the future, and I would already have a full-fledged bias at play in my mind, and on my published blog.

The only reason I did publish this is because it is so easy to see both sides.

Thanks for the compliment, and maybe I will try to loosen my reins a little bit in the future.

Posted by: Amanda at July 9, 2005 8:19 AM

Sometimes it's hard not to be one-sided on a personal blog. I know I tend to have extensive bias. (Then again, I'm more focused on the media side of the NMJ major rather than journalism)

It is very noble of you to express your concern for these issues, no matter how objective. I think you were fair and honest with the issue in this post. I actually enjoy reading your objective posts. (Think about all the other blogs that blatently state their opinions on issues, including mine).

Giving objective information makes one stop and reflect rather than argue. You really got to the heart of this story and I'm hoping it raises some good discussion on the blogs.

Posted by: Evan at July 11, 2005 3:15 PM

Thanks, Evan.

Posted by: Amanda at July 20, 2005 12:48 PM
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