Skip to main content

View Diary: The AP Phone Records, the Press, and the Devil's Bargain (45 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  In Re: Shain (4th Cir. on confidential sources) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This does not exactly address what your diary is about, but I think it does add to the discussion.

    Jefferson Marion Long, Jr. was accused of taking bribes and feed misinformation to the press. The prosecutors wanted to subpoena the reports as prosecution witness. The reports refused to answer the subpoena. The case ended up in the 4th District Court. Although he concurred with the ruling that the reports did have to respect the subpoena, Justice Wilkson did so for a different reason than the majority.

    These reporters were neither parties nor witnesses to any criminal activity. They have been subpoenaed for doing nothing more than effectively covering the news. All four reporters have covered for extended periods the scandal which led to this trial, yet they are now unable to cover the trial because they reported "false exculpatory statements" made by the defendant, Senator Long.fn Using the power of subpoena to remove reporters with a special background on a story is a troubling matter. It will not enhance the public's understanding of events, and it may restrain the flow of information in a way that ordinary subpoenas do not.

           The situation here is not atypical. In an attempt to achieve vindication or to turn public opinion in their favor, those suspected of wrongdoing will often seek to get out their side of the story through the media. Denials of misconduct, honest and otherwise, will be commonplace. In routinely reporting such denials, the press acts in its own way to protect the presumption of innocence. Now, however, every reporter who reports a putative defendant's false exculpatory statement is a potential witness at trial. That potential increases markedly when the statement was not made at a news conference, but to the reporter individually. Reporters facing the prospect of becoming prosecution witnesses if they report a false exculpatory statement may think twice about conducting exclusive interviews or reporting statements of denial that may be open to question. I am troubled by any rule which says that a reporter's exclusive "scoop" of a public figure's version of events makes that same reporter uniquely vulnerable to a government subpoena. The values served by an independent press will be diminished if reporters covering a case are routinely dragged into its midst.

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Sat May 18, 2013 at 12:22:11 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site