Newseum Institute survey: Public values independent press, concerned about leaks

Newseum Institute’s State of the First Amendment report A Newseum Institute survey on public attitudes toward the First Amendment shows the public still strongly and consistently supports the freedoms of the First Amendment. The survey found two-thirds of respondents (67.7%) agreed “the media should act as a watchdog of the government.” The percentage of respondents agreeing that the news media reports without bias nearly doubled to 43.1% from a year ago. Other results on topics of interest to the coalition: Unauthorized disclosures (“Leaks”). Respondents were not swayed that prosecutors should weigh the public interest from a disclosure when deciding to [More]

Daily Press Briefings are an important exercise in self-governance

Diminishing or eliminating the daily White House Press Briefing is a big mistake. In my childhood hometown, the longtime daily newspaper sits along one side of a wide open space that has been the home to civic protest, celebrations, food festivals and relaxed family picnics. Along another side of the town square sits another building of equal architectural and community significance, City Hall. The physical proximity of the newspaper and the seat of local government makes the greenspace a gathering point, a place where people from around the community exercise their First Amendment rights. The resulting civic-mindedness helps define the [More]

White House photographs should be taken by impartial ‘visual journalists’

This is another reminder that if you let someone take a selfie with you, you should expect to see it online. Yesterday, on May 10, President Donald Trump met in the Oval Office with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister and allowed the Russian news agency TASS to photograph the event while denying access to American press. Unnamed sources within the White House later said they felt “tricked” and that they did not believe TASS would release the photographs, according to CNN. Press coverage is, and should be, daily at the White House, and that coverage ought to include newsgathering [More]

FIRST Principles Update for May 8, 2017

Wikileaks under renewed Justice Department scrutiny In recent weeks, the government has turned up the public relations temperature against WikiLeaks. In late April, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department is seriously examining whether to prosecute WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a hostile non-state intelligence service. At the same time, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is “stepping up” the justice Department’s work against leaks, Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports. ‘We are going to step up our efforts and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,’ the attorney general said. ‘This is a matter that [More]

First Amendment Report Card: C+ for the five freedoms

The five freedoms of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution received a C+ grade from a panel of reviewers brought together by the Newseum Institute. The report card is an effort to assign a grade four times each year to each of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Panelists were asked to assign an individual grade to each of the freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. (Disclosure: I participated as a grader.) Read some of the grades and comments or Newseum Institute Chief Operating Officer Gene Policinski’s commentary. It’s important to remember that we were asked [More]

Gorsuch on libel standards

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch explains current standards for libel and First Amendment protections established in New York Times v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court decision that established clear protections for newsreporting and speech about public officials. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asks Gorsuch about the standard. KLOBUCHAR: I’m gonna end with freedom of press in honor of my dad. He was a newspaper reporter his whole life and I’m especially concerned in today’s world where we’re seeing these attacks on the media about maintaining the press’s role as a watch dog. Our founders enshrined freedom of the press in the First [More]

FIRST Principles Update for March 21, 2017

News Media for Open Government publishes FIRST Principles to update you on some of what we’re following. Lawmakers prod executive branch to implement FOIA reforms. On March 15, 2017, senior senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent letters seeking updates and timetables for completing reforms that Congress put in place last year make the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) work better. Signed by Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the letters were notable for sending a clear message that Senators on a bipartisan basis want to see the [More]

FIRST Principles for March 3, 2017

Welcome to the News Media for Open Government FIRST Principles Updates Name Change: Why we became News Media for Open Government. Working for over a decade as the Sunshine in Government Initiative, we adopted a new name, a new, broadened mission to protect newsgathering, and a new look. And in 2017, we’ll be doing more to help our member groups keep track of trends and fight to protect newsgathering and open government. Comments, concerns, tips or suggestions? Send them to Rick Blum, director, News Media for Open Government at rblum@foropengov.org. Appreciation to our members. If you support these groups through [More]

Cosmetics manufacturing bill (H.R. 575) hides adverse events

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tx.) has introduced legislation that appears to allow cosmetics manufacturers to keep product complaints reported to the federal government secret. The legislation (H.R. 575), appears to allow the executive branch wide latitude to determine through regulation what agencies must require manufacturers to disclose publicly. “(g) List.—The Secretary shall compile and maintain an up-to-date and publicly available electronic list of cosmetics and ingredients for which statements are submitted under this section. A statement submitted pursuant to this section shall not be subject to disclosure under section 552 of title 5, United States Code. The Secretary may make publicly [More]

Accuracy in journalism

Journalism at its best is guided by the search for truth and holding the powerful to account. This is not some academic exercise or noble goal. Resources abound for learning about how the news media takes seriously its commitment to accuracy. An important starting point is the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which lays out four commitments for journalists: seek the truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent. The SPJ website provides detailed guidance on work by the Code, and it gives good grounding for any person with questions about how journalists do their work.