Traditional Media

The New York Observer on the New York Times on News Corp.

There's something kind of funny about a blog entry around a recent article in one outlet indicating that another newspaper is working on an expose about yet another media outlet, but that really is what this post is about. According to Michael Calderone at the New York Observer, "The New York Times is currently undertaking a major news investigation, led by managing editor Jill Abramson, into News Corp.'s business dealings throughout the world, according to a source with knowledge of the project."

Amidst the heavily hyped negotiations between Murdoch's minions and the Bancroft family who currently own the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times has apparently decided to mount their own investigation in an effort to examine what should be expected from the possible merger. While there is no clear indication what spin the Times will put on the story, it seems unlikely that the paper will conclude that Rupert Murdoch is the patron saint of news media. The New York times is one of the last major independent media outlets (along with the Wall Street Journal - for now), and it's altogether possible that News Corp. may eventually set it's sites on the Times, so I think it is safe to anticipate that this article won't be a puff piece.

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Without a Shield: A Free Press in Peril

I headed to Washington DC last month to meet with members of Congress and their staff about the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 which had just been introduced days before my visit. For those that don't know, the bill would extend the same protections journalists are afforded in most state courts to the Federal level. These laws are generally known as shield laws and offer legal protections against forcing journalists to testify about their work, and there is some level of shield afforded to journalists in almost every state.

So why are these shield laws important, and why should journalists be afforded this protection in the first place?

One of the basic defining principles of a democracy is a free press. If information is being stymied by the government, or the political conditions make it impossible for people to engage with the press then the public is robbed of all the facts they need to make an informed decision. Much of the work that journalists due relies on a trust relationship between their contacts, and the material uncovered through the investigative process is not dissimilar from that of detectives. Unless there are protections established than journalists can easily be subpoenaed and forced to do the work of law enforcement thus muddying their position as the Fourth Estate and the trust they have worked so hard to establish.

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