Newsgathering

This section covers many of the issues that journalists encounter as they're on the streets trying to gather news, including being stopped by police for reporting on or photographing at an emergency scene, being held back because you've been denied credentials, and being kept off of public or private property while covering a story. While reporters don't have a greater right of access than the general public, officials sometimes go out of their way to interfere with journalists simply because they are reporting to a larger audience. This section also covers controversies involving interviewing prisoners.

Ferguson and the right to photograph police

The summer protests shined a spotlight on coverage issues, and warned of things to come
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Kimberly Chow

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Protesters march on Nov. 23 in St. Louis, before the grand jury returned a decision.

While the country awaited a grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, in late November, the protests following the death of Michael Brown in August served as an early reminder that members of the press can often be swept up as part of the story they are covering. As journalists vigorously covered the public unrest, many found themselves harassed or placed under arrest simply for engaging in the activity of filming or photographing the police activity around the protests. Some had guns pointed at them, and others were held overnight.

Encryption: Is it enough, or too much?

And is the Snowden situation the exception, or the new rule?
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Hannah Bloch-Wehba

James Risen of The New York Times; Julia Angwin of ProPublica; Dana Priest of The Washington Post, and Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project discuss real-world encryption problems for journalists.

Journalists worldwide are turning to enhanced operational security to safeguard their communications from surveillance. But panelists at the "News Organizations and Digital Security" conference on Nov. 7 emphasized that encryption-based tools, while important, are of limited utility so long as they remain uncommon and difficult to use.

Beyond PGP

The institutional news media's approach to digital security
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Kimberly Chow

Panelists Jack Gillum of the Associated Press; Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing; Morgan Marquis-Boire of First Look Media, and Nabiha Syed, of Levine Sullivan Koch and Schulz discuss digital security issues with moderator Marcia Hofmann.

The main impediment to implementing digital security in traditional newsrooms may be that reporters avoid learning about it and news organizations don't dedicate appropriate resources to it, according to panelists at a November 7 conference cosponsored by the Reporters Committee.

The panel, composed of an Associated Press journalist, a digital security expert, a media lawyer, a digital media commentator, and a digital rights lawyer, discussed the ways that the institutional press is currently protecting its writers and the many ways it can do better.

Standard Practices

Examining Internet, cloud storage and social networking providers
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Amelia Rufer

Before trading in the park bench for a Gmail account, journalists must decide if technology companies’ terms of service are enough to protect their sources from government surveillance.

Online service providers Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, WordPress.com and Yahoo include policies in their terms of service that require the government to obtain a warrant for content and that promise to notify users if the government requests their information.

Consent orders on arrests of journalists released as Ferguson awaits grand jury decision

Amelia Rufer | Newsgathering | News | November 21, 2014
News
November 21, 2014

(Editor's note: The Reporters Committee's hotline, 800-336-4243, will be available during any upcoming unrest for journalists who are interfered with while covering the news.)

As St. Louis anxiously awaits a grand jury decision on whether to indict the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, city, county and state officials have agreed to consent orders regarding the arrest of journalists to end litigation brought by the ACLU over earlier events in Ferguson.

Release of cell phone location tracking data raises First Amendment concerns, Reporters Committee argues

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Newsgathering | News | November 17, 2014
News
November 17, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today filed a brief in an important case assessing the constitutionality of warrantless acquisition of historical cell phone location data.

United States v. Davis

November 17, 2014

A panel of Eleventh Circuit judges held that the Fourth Amendment applies to requests for historical cell site location information. Prosecutors obtained over two months' worth of historical location information from a cell phone provider using a court order issued under the Stored Communications Act, which permits a court to order a service provider to turn over subscriber records but does not require a finding of probable cause that a crime has been committed. The Eleventh Circuit granted rehearing en banc, and the Reporters Committee filed a brief in support of the defendant's position. The Fourth Amendment question in the case, the Reporters Committee argued, is inextricably linked to First Amendment questions. Warrantless acquisition of cell phone location data is concerning because a record of where one goes, and for how long, lays bare the processes of investigative reporting and threatens to reveal confidential sources and methods.

Journalists, technologists discuss encryption at conference on digital security after Snowden

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Newsgathering | News | November 10, 2014
News
November 10, 2014

Update: The complete conference video is now online.


“Edward Snowden is not a model for journalism,” James Risen said at a conference on digital security practices last Friday. “If it is, we’re going to have a lot of lawyers — and a lot of problems.”

From left to right, James Risen of The New York Times, Julia Angwin of ProPublica, Dana Priest of The Washington Post, and Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU discuss the use of encryption by journalists.

All eyes on Ferguson as decision nears

Amelia Rufer | Newsgathering | News | November 7, 2014
News
November 7, 2014

The grand jury weighing whether or not to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown is expected to deliver a decision by mid-November. But possible unrest could return to the city if the grand jury declines to indict next week, while police officials have still not addressed the treatment of journalists who covered the protests.

The protests following the Aug. 9 shooting prompted reports of police officers arresting and intimidating reporters who were trying to cover the story.

According to Officer Tim Zoll, a spokesman for the Ferguson Police Department, the department has no plans to change police treatment of media in Ferguson.

"The Ferguson Police Department is going to operate the same way we've always operated and our first concern is the safety of the public," said Zoll. "We hope the media is smart enough to take our advice."

Letter to DOJ, FBI regarding Seattle FBI media impersonation

November 6, 2014

The Reporters Committee led a media coalition protesting a Seattle FBI effort to use a fake Associated Press news article and web site to ensnare a criminal suspect. The protest letter was submitted to the Attorney General and the Director of the FBI.