Oct
20
2014

Official Sources May Be the Only Sources

Risen case tests reporters' power to reveal government wrongdoing

James Risen, New York Times

James Risen's supporters fear that the US Department of Justice within the self-proclaimed “most transparent administration in history” is preparing to deliver a body blow to the First Amendment’s promise of press freedom.

Aug
01
2013

SoundBites August 2013

Josh Marshall (cc photo: JD Lasica)

Defining George W. as a Non-Bush Jon Meacham in Time (7/1/13) tried to refurbish the Bush “brand name” in preparation for a possible presidential run by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: Jeb long ago internalized and then lived out his family’s guiding precepts. Bushes move to new parts of the country; they work hard; they learn from their mistakes, particularly from failed campaigns; and they never, ever give up. Of course, almost none of this applies to the most famous Bush, Jeb’s brother George W. He did move from Connecticut to Texas—when he was two years old. But he famously […]

Oct
25
2011

NPR vs. Free Speech

Opera show dropped by NPR to punish host's political activism

On Friday NPR decided it would no longer distribute an opera program because of the political activism of the program's host--who does not work for NPR. Together we can send a message to NPR about this appalling decision. A controversy erupted over freelance radio host Lisa Simeone's participation with an activist group occupying a park in Washington, D.C. Simeone was promptly fired as host of the documentary program Soundprint (AP, 10/20/11), which cited NPR ethics guidelines. NPR claims it had nothing to do with that firing (Poynter.org, 10/20/11). On Thursday, North Carolina station WDAV, which produces World of Opera, announced […]

Oct
01
2011

Closer to Home, 'Digital Democracy' Loses Appeal

From Egypt to San Francisco, officials dislike protesters’ use of social media

Photo Credit: BART

When Bay Area Rapid Transit authorities shut off cell phone service to deter protests against police violence, the backlash went viral. And despite the stifling of social media in San Francisco-area stations and trains, dissenters may have gotten the last word with old-fashioned ink scrawled on a handmade sign: “Mu-BART-Ak?” The quip highlighted the double-speak behind the political establishment’s attitude toward subversive applications of social media. A few months earlier, the “Twitter Revolution” was all the rage in Washington; establishment figures like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (BusinessWeek, 1/27/11) and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (6/5/11) praised the uprising […]

Mar
01
2011

11th Annual Fear & Favor Report

How power shapes the news

U.S. media consumers are used to magazines where ads outnumber stories, to on-air hosts who contractually consume brand-name drinks, to “consideration provided by” this and “brought to you by” that. But when it comes to the news, many still maintain at least the kernel of expectation that reports in the paper or on TV have more to do with journalistic judgment than with anything else. The Fear & Favor report is about some of the things that come between that image and reality on a daily basis. From pushy advertisers to heavy-handed owners and local power players, there are a […]

Jul
01
2010

Freedom of the Press in Indian Country

Censorship an issue when tribal governments pay the bills

Indian Country: 1.9 million people and 564 tribes spread over more than 55 million square acres. Running staccato from the tip of the Florida panhandle to the tip of Maine, down through the Catskills, out along the Great Lakes through the Badlands of the Dakotas to the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, down through California and through the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, up through the Martian red sands of the Four Corners, coming full circle in the heart of Oklahoma, the original Indian ghetto, formerly “Indian Territory.” As such, the Indian Country galaxy is as diverse and as fractious as […]

Jan
01
2010

Freedom Forum CEO Tied to For-Profit Prisons

An advocate for--and against--freedom of information

Al Neuharth (cc photo: Scott Henrichsen/Knight Foundation)

Charles Overby has a foot planted firmly in two very different worlds. In one, he is a champion of the free press. In the other, he is part of a group at the helm of a corporation that has worked hard to limit freedom of information and the ability of the press to inform the public. In one world, Overby is chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum, a foundation created by former USA Today publisher Al Neuharth, and its Newseum—located on Pennsylvania Avenue, blocks from the Smithsonian and the Capitol, and which literally has the First Amendment etched onto […]

May
01
2009

When the White House Says Hush

Treating the ‘state secrets privilege’ as classified information

When Barack Obama’s Justice Department announced that it was taking the exact same position as the George W. Bush administration on the state secrets privilege (New York Times, 2/10/09), many civil liberties experts were alarmed. Many avid news consumers, on the other hand, were asking themselves: What’s the state secrets privilege? Even on the rare occasions when corporate media mention this legal gambit, they don’t always get it right. A USA Today op-ed (7/5/06) described it like this: “The military and state secret privilege requires a court to dismiss a lawsuit just because the president says it involves important secrets.” […]