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.

Reporters Committee argues against "blaming the messenger" in dismissed surveillance case

Press Release | July 11, 2014
July 11, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press yesterday filed an amicus brief critical of a federal court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit stemming from the New York City Police Department’s systematic, undercover surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey.

In its February ruling in Hassan v. The City of New York, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey denied standing to Muslim plaintiffs who claimed that the NYPD’s surveillance of them violated their civil rights. The court reasoned that the Associated Press caused any alleged harm when it uncovered the program, and that the plaintiffs had no right to sue the government.

Hassan v. The City of New York

July 10, 2014

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed a civil rights case, finding that the Muslim plaintiffs who alleged that the NYPD's surveillance of them violated their civil rights did not have standing to sue. The court found that the harm caused by the surveillance program was attributable to the news reporting of the Associated Press in breaking news of the surveillance. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and North Jersey Media Group Inc. argued in this brief that the court's decision to blame the media instead of the government entity that ran the surveillance program misapplies the law of Article III standing. It also threatens the protections that the Supreme Court has given to the free press, and ignores that the AP's reporting fits into the American tradition of watchdog journalism that has led to important debate and reform.

SCOTUSblog denied Senate press credentials because of ties to law firm

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Newsgathering | News | June 23, 2014
News
June 23, 2014

The U.S. Senate Press Gallery denied the popular Supreme Court website SCOTUSblog Senate press credentials today, finding that the site does not exercise enough editorial independence from the publisher's law firm.

The Gallery’s Standing Committee of Correspondents, consisting of five journalists credentialed to cover the Senate, posted a letter to SCOTUSblog’s publisher Tom Goldstein one month after its May 23 meeting discussing the site’s relation to Goldstein's firm, Goldstein & Russell LLP.

Police department agrees to implement recording rights guidelines in settlement with videographer

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Newsgathering | News | June 19, 2014
News
June 19, 2014

New York’s Suffolk County Police Department agreed to take new measures to instruct police on citizens’ recording rights in a settlement following the arrest of a freelance videographer.

Phillip Datz, a videographer and member of the National Press Photographers Association, filed a complaint against Suffolk County Police in 2012 after an officer arrested him for obstruction of governmental administration because Datz filmed police activity while on a public street.

Before the case made it to trial in the U.S. District Court of New York, Datz and Suffolk County reached a settlement. Suffolk County agreed to develop resources on citizens’ recording rights and to pay Datz $200,000 to cover attorney’s fees and costs.

Sen. Wyden speaks out against new policy restricting access to intelligence sources

Bradleigh Chance | Newsgathering | News | June 18, 2014
News
June 18, 2014

On the Senate floor this week Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., praised new statutory protections for intelligence agency whistleblowers, but expressed concerns with a new policy created by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that punishes intelligence agency employees for talking to the press.

Wyden worked with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to include the new whistleblower protections in a provision in the 2014 Intelligence Authorization bill, which passed unanimously Wednesday evening, but Wyden’s success with the bill is overshadowed by his frustrations with a new policy from the DNI.

Recent settlement in suit over arrest for recording police follows growing trend

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Newsgathering | News | June 16, 2014
News
June 16, 2014

The town of Weare, New Hampshire, settled a lawsuit last week for $57,500 with a woman arrested for videotaping a police officer, adding to the growing list of settlements stemming from police officers’ restriction of video and audio recordings in public places.

In Gericke v. Begin, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) upheld a lower court opinion that Carla Gericke was within her First Amendment rights to record a police officer at a traffic stop.

Following that opinion, instead of choosing to continue with the trial, Weare settled the case with Gericke.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said most of the cases in which citizens sue police for unlawfully arresting them or confiscating their cameras reach a settlement, although this settlement was low in comparison to others he has noticed.

SCOTUSblog press-pass hearing raises questions about Senate credentialing process

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Newsgathering | News | June 6, 2014
News
June 6, 2014

The status of a popular U.S. Supreme Court website as a publication credentialed to cover the Senate rests on a credentialing committee's opinion of the site's past and present ties to the site publisher's law firm.

SCOTUSblog, a website devoted to comprehensive coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court, still awaits a decision from the U.S. Senate Press Gallery Standing Committee of Correspondents on whether it will receive Senate press credentials.

In April, the committee rejected the application of SCOTUSblog editor and reporter Amy Howe and said it would not renew SCOTUSblog reporter Lyle Denniston’s credentials after questioning whether the site fits the gallery’s guidelines for editorial and financial independence.

Supreme Court: Secret Service immune from Bush protesters' suit

Cindy Gierhart | Newsgathering | News | May 27, 2014
News
May 27, 2014

The Supreme Court unanimously held Tuesday that Secret Service officials could not be sued by protesters who alleged a First Amendment violation for being moved away from then-President George W. Bush while Bush supporters were allowed to remain.

Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed disappointment over the Court's decision. While the ACLU recognizes the obvious need for security surrounding the president, he said "that does not include the right to shield the President from criticism . . . . In our view, the jury should have been allowed to decide whether this case was actually about security or censorship."

First Circuit upholds right to record traffic stops

Kevin Delaney | Newsgathering | News | May 27, 2014
News
May 27, 2014

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) recognized last week a First Amendment right to video record a traffic stop that occurs in a public place. The court’s decision allows Carla Gericke to continue a civil rights lawsuit she brought against a New Hampshire police department.

In March of 2010, New Hampshire police charged Gericke with violating a state law that prohibits the unlawful interception of oral communications after Gericke appeared to use her video camera to capture a late-night traffic stop.

Even though prosecutors declined to pursue the charges, Gericke brought a suit claiming her First Amendment right to free expression was violated when the police charged her with illegal wiretapping in response to her decision to videotape the stop.

Letter on SCOTUSblog credentials

May 22, 2014

The Reporters Committee wrote a letter on behalf of itself and 14 other news organizations, weighing in on the issue of whether SCOTUSblog should be allowed to hold press credentials. The Standing Committee of Correspondents, made up of five journalists, requires that qualifying news organizations "be editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government, or that is not principally a general news organization." The committee had questions about the relationship between the news site and both the founder's law firm and its sole sponsor, Bloomberg Law. We urged the committee to recognize that funding and management relations can be complex with new forms of media and to allow for flexibility when a site has demonstrated that it is indeed covering the news.