Adam Liptak of the New York Times (8/31/09) says that we can thank Riverside, California’s Press-Enterprise for having “fought ferociously” in multiple Supreme Court battles ensuring “the press and the public have nearly an absolute constitutional right to attend jury selection in criminal cases.”
According to Liptak, “news organizations used to consider those kinds of lawsuits a matter of civic responsibility”:
“For the last four decades, maybe longer, citizens have been able to rely on small, medium and large news organizations, mostly newspapers, to fight their access battles on their behalf,” said Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press….
These days, she said, “the access litigations have dried up.”
It is notable, for instance, that the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups have taken the leading role in trying to shake loose information about the Bush administration’s policies and actions, while news organizations have largely sat on the sidelines.
Also notable are exactly which public interests the Times usually wields its own considerable budget in favor of–still, it’s valuable, if disconcerting, to read Adam Liptak reporting that the Press-Enterprise is now “so strapped that it’s quit distributing free copies of the paper to staff members in the city room.”