As the depth and breadth of TV news has decreased – especially at the local level – communities have fewer and fewer sources of meaningful election coverage. The result is that people now receive the majority of their information about candidates from campaign ads – not from the news. In their recent future of media report the FCC noted that in 2006, “viewers of local news in the Midwest got 2.5 times more information about local elections from paid advertisements than from newscasts.”…
…And as campaign ads have become huge windfalls for TV broadcasters, there is little market motivation to change this equation. More than two-thirds of all campaign spending in the last election went to TV stations. In 2008, TV commercials ate up at least $2.8 billion in campaign funds nationwide. In the wake of the Citizen’s United decision political advertising broke the $400 million mark in the 2010 election. It is a paradox of our media moment that technology has put a printing press in almost everyone’s hands, but increasingly freedom of speech and the press is only available to those who can pay.
[C]hanges in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders [and] news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.
Judge Kermit Lipez, US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in a ruling in favor of Simon Glik, a Massachusetts man arrested for videotaping police officers with his cell phone as they detained another man. Glik was accused of illegal wiretapping, aiding the escape of a prisoner and disturbing the peace.
Matthew Ingram, GigaOm, Freedom of the press applies to everyone — yes, even bloggers.
A criminal trial subpoena is not a free pass for the government to rifle through a reporter’s notebook
Leonie Brinkema, US Federal Judge. United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling.
In a case involving an ex-CIA agent accused of revealing classified national security information, the US government tried to force New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal his sources for his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (NPR review and excerpt).
Earlier this month Brinkema ruled Risen would not have to testify.
As explained by Charlie Savage in the New York Times:
The judge wrote that Mr. Risen was protected by a limited “reporter’s privilege” under the First Amendment, meaning that prosecutors had to prove that there was a compelling need for the reporter’s testimony and there that were no other means of obtaining the equivalent of that testimony. The government argued that such a privilege did not exist, but she recounted numerous other cases -– though none as high profile as the C.I.A. leak case -– in which other federal judges had invoked it.
This is an important victory for the First Amendment, and for the freedom of the press in the United States. Some people don’t seem to understand the connection between the ability of journalists to protect their confidential sources and a free press. But if whistleblowers in government, in corporations, and elsewhere in society can be hounded and persecuted, and if the Justice Department is able to use its power to turn reporters into informants, then investigative journalism in America will surely wither and die. The First Amendment will have lost its meaning.
Email from the New York Times’ James Risen to Salon’s Glenn Greenwald.
On Friday, a judge ruled that Risen would not have to testify about the identity of a source during the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA official.
Sterling was arrested in January and is accused of leaking classified information to Risen.
Glenn Greenwald, Salon. Obama’s whistleblower war suffers two defeats.
I take very seriously my obligations as a journalist when reporting about matters that may be classified or may implicate national security concerns. I do not always publish all information that I have, even if it is newsworthy and true. If I believe that the publication of the information would cause real harm to our national security, I will not publish a piece. I have found, however, that all too frequently, the government claims that publication of certain information will harm national security, when in reality, the government’s real concern is about covering up its own wrongdoing or avoiding embarrassment…
…Any testimony I were to provide to the Government would compromise to a significant degree my ability to continue reporting as well as the ability of other journalists to do so. This is particularly true in my current line of work covering stories relating to national security, intelligence and terrorism. If I aided the Government in its effort to prosecute my confidential source(s) for providing information to me under terms of confidentiality, I would inevitably be compromising my own ability to gather news in the future. I also believe that I would be impeding all other reporters’ ability to gather and report the news in the future.
Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the New York Times, speaks at a Nieman Lab event about the organization’s relationship to state secrets in light of WikiLeaks.
Important is his discussion of what — and what not — the Times decides to publish, its relationship with the government, and the role of whistle blowing in a democratic society.
Click to listen, right click to download.