Monday Morning Media Minute
Volume 12, Number 13: May 20, 2013
Media Minute: A big step backward
By Jerry Brown, APR
I committed journalism for 20 years, seven of them with The Associated Press and five of those in Washington, D.C.
So last week’s stories about the Obama administration’s secret seizure of two months’ worth of records showing incoming and outgoing calls to and from 20 phone lines used by AP reporters and editors got my attention.
I’m mad as hell about it. And worried about it.
Presidents and other elected officials have found leaks a frustrating reality of their jobs for generations. And we, the public, have been better off because we’ve learned things that helped keep those officials from overreaching.
Acknowledging the political fallout, President Obama has called on Congress to reintroduce a press shield law that has a loophole in it big enough to render it more or less useless — except as a political talking point. I’d lile to see Congress pass a press shield law that would make it difficult or impossible for a repeat of the incident we learned about last week. That’s not likely to happen.
Press shield laws that once protected journalists from having to disclose their sources have been eviscerated over the years. People willing to talk to reporters in secret are less likely to make those disclosures if they know their identities will become known.
What we learned last week about the government’s seizure of AP’s phone records was a step in the wrong direction, in my opinion.
Despite the political rhetoric we’re likely to hear in the weeks ahead if Congress really does take up the nothing-but-a-fig-leaf shield law, the AP intrusion we learned about last week won’t be the last such incident unless the media and the public demand an end to such fishing expeditions. That means our nation’s press, already weakened by economic forces that have decimated newsrooms across the country, will become weaker yet. And we’ll be less informed.
That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?
Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 10:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros radio show, KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archives. And check out Jerry’s content-focused blog at www.JerryBrownPR.com.