Friday, April 29, 2005

Federal shield bill heads for hearings

The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing May 12 on a bill that would create a federal shield law, AP reports. The bill would prohibit federal judges from forcing journalists to reveal their confidential sources.

Bloggers should have same legal rights as mainstream media, survey says

Most Americans believe bloggers should enjoy the same Constitutional protection as traditional journalists, but a majority said they still prefer to get their information from the mainstream media, according to a recent survey reported at

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed in a poll conducted by Web hosting company Hostway said bloggers should have the same protection under the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights as the mainstream media, while 27 percent expressed no opinion on the subject.

But the survey suggests that bloggers are not taken as seriously as the traditional media. Thirty-nine percent said they found blogs less credible than newspaper articles, and 38 percent said blogs were less credible than television news. Nearly one-fourth found magazine advertising to be more credible.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Maine paper seeks release of brain-donation records

The Portland Press Herald has filed a lawsuit under Maine's Freedom of Access Act seeking state medical examiner forms that identify deceased brain donors and their next-of-kin, but the Maine attorney general is fighting their release, saying they reveal private information, the newspaper reports.

Rhode Island AG sues town for 'willful' violations of public records law

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch has filed suit against the Town of Barrington for "willfully and knowingly" violating the state's Access to Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act, the Barrington Times reports. The suit claims the town violated open government laws approximately 200 times.

An ominous climate for freedom of the press

So says Nicholas D. Kristof writing for the op-ed page of The New York Times. A major reason, he says in this thoughtful piece, is that the "media are widely perceived as arrogant, out of touch and untrustworthy." He concludes:
"If one word can capture the public attitude toward American journalists, I'm afraid it's 'arrogant.' Not surprisingly, I think that charge is grossly unfair. But it's imperative that we respond to that charge - not by dismissing it, but by working far more diligently to reconnect with the public.

"Unless we can recover the public trust, our protests about reporters' going to jail will come across as self-serving whining. And we'll wake up one day to find ourselves on the wrong side of history."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Federal judge imposes gag order on reporter

A federal judge in Massachusetts last week imposed a gag order against The Standard-Times in New Bedford, barring it from publishing what reporter Ray Henry heard on March 31 at a court hearing on a motion by an accused drug trafficker.

The gag order expired this morning when federal prosecutors failed to file an appeal.

During the March 31 hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert E. Keeton, federal prosecutors disclosed what the court determined was privileged information without first determining who was in the courtroom. The session was not closed to the public and the reporter and others were permitted by a U.S. marshal to enter.

The gag order was set to expire at 11 a.m. today, unless prosecutors or defense lawyers asked the Court of Appeals to intervene. The newspaper called the gag order prior restraint of its First Amendment rights.

See the Standard-Times report: S-T challenges gag order in drug case.