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Archive for January 29th, 2017

The overlooked battlefield in the war against the press

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CNN reporter Jeremy Desmond asked Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, under fire because of four deaths at his jail, for an interview. On Friday, Clarke replied on Twitter:

Donald Trump has labeled CNN as fake news. When Pres. Trump says CNN is ok again, then I might.

democracy-in-americaThe sheriff — an elected public official — has refused to respond to a press request for an interview. This particular sheriff has a nationwide reputation as a supporter of President Donald and has been considered for a position in the Donald administration.

No law compels anyone, elected or not, to speak to a journalist. But those who voted for Clarke ought to wonder how, and by whom, his performance should be examined. More troubling, however, is this: Clarke is unlikely to be the last city, county, or state elected public official, feeling empowered by President Donald’s disdain for the press, to withhold information the public is lawfully entitled to.

Imagine a reporter in a small town in a state somewhere between the coasts. She asks the town clerk (an elected public official) for the agenda of the next meeting of the town council. The town clerk refuses — without explanation. The council itself decides to change its meeting date and time without posting a legally required public notice of its intent to meet. The reporter asks the town clerk for a copy of the minutes of the council’s unannounced meeting and is again refused. The reporter calls the chair of the town council and asks for an interview. She is rebuffed.

Expect occurrences of this scenario, which journalists have experienced time and again, to increase.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

January 29, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized