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“Media Matters”

From the Summer 2005 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 13. A search of Supreme Court nominee…

From the Summer 2005 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 13.

A search of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts’ business memos and notes in the National Archives reveals little about his views on the federal Freedom of Information Act, but does reveal some interesting anti-press passages highlighted in photocopied pages of magazines and books.

The notes and documents were created in 1981 and 1982, while Roberts was special assistant to the attorney general under President Ronald Reagan.

A file marked “FOIA Requests” is filled with correspondence between Roberts and other Department of Justice personnel, consisting mostly of memos signed by Roberts authorizing FOI Act decisions to withhold department documents.

More intriguing in Roberts’ file is the folder marked “Media Matters,” which is filled with photocopied pages of magazines and books, with certain lines on each page marked or otherwise highlighted.

Some examples of the highlighted content:

From a June 14, 1982, Time magazine article:

“The conduct of the press after Woodward and Bernstein could only help Nixon’s side of the argument. Watergate beatified the press; it gave reporters a model and ambition. It made them zealous, fierce to expose, hungry to bring back trophies. Public officials, even the most obscure, knew that young reporters would go over their lives like flesh-eating birds. That knowledge has served to deplete the ranks of men and women willing to serve in the government. Watergate helped to destroy the boundary between public and private life.”

From the 1982 book “Taking Care of the Law” by Griffin B. Bell:

“That departure from accurate reporting occurred because one of the nation’s leading newspapers [The New York Times] let its hunger for ‘investigative’ journalism, a field in which it trailed during the Watergate era, overpower its good judgment.”

From an unidentified book of quotes:

“The abuses of the press are notorious . . License of the press is no proof of liberty. When a people are corrupted, the press may be made an engine to complete their ruin.” &#151 John Adams, “Novanglus,” in Boston Gazette, Feb. 6, 1775

“It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of its benefits than is done by its abandoned prostitution to falsehood.” &#151 Thomas Jefferson, To John Norvell, June 11, 1807

“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” &#151 Thomas Jefferson, To John Norvell, June 11, 1807

“To answer newspaper accusations would be an endless task. The tongue of falsehood can never be silenced, and I have not time to spare from public business to the vindication of myself.” &#151 John Quincy Adams, Diary, Dec. 31, 1821

“The newspapers must not be taken too seriously.” &#151 Benjamin Harrison, “Musings on Current Topics,” North American Review, March 1901

&#151 Amanda Groover