Byrd proposes disclosure requirements for Senate reporters
Following his late July success in passing a nonbinding resolution in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) in mid- August proposed a formal resolution that would require journalists covering the Senate to file annual reports disclosing their employers and all sources of outside income.
Sen. Byrd told the Senate he introduced the measure to “restore public credibility” in the media. Because his hopes of self-regulation by the media have not been realized, Byrd said, the Senate must impose regulations requiring the “slight inconvenience” of full financial disclosure.
The Senate Rules Committee, which will consider the bill before it is sent to the full Senate, had not scheduled hearings as of early September.
Stern, Infinity pay fines
Infinity Broadcasting Corp. in early September settled fines incurred through the broadcast of allegedly indecent material by its syndicated shock jock Howard Stern by paying $1.71 million to the FCC, $9,000 more than the total fines the agency had proposed that it would levy against Infinity in five different actions brought over the past three years.
Infinity admitted to no wrongdoing in the settlement which effectively stops all pending FCC action.
Infinity attorney Steve Lerman told the Washington Post that the move is an attempt to “normalize” relationships with the FCC at a time when Congress is permitting limits on ownership of television stations and when the FCC has been “less swift” with respect to expansion plans by Infinity than it would like.
Aspiring screenwriter asks Ito to question journalists
Aspiring screenwriter Laura Hart McKinney, who fought attempts by defense attorneys to force her to testify in the O.J. Simpson murder trial about her controversial conversations with detective Mark Fuhrman, asked Judge Lance Ito in late August to question reporters concerning their sources of information taken from the tapes that was leaked to the media before it was presented in court.
McKinney claimed that the news reports harmed her “proprietary interest” in the tapes and violated Ito’s confidentiality order, which he applied to the tapes when they were filed.
Police chief apologizes to journalists for arrests
An editor and photographer from the Griffin (Ga.) Daily News who were arrested in late July following their coverage of a traffic accident received an apology from the Griffin chief of police in late August.
Photographer Bob Freitag was told by an officer at the scene of an auto accident that he could not take photographs of victims because of “patient confidentiality” concerns.
Editor Mark Williams arrived at the scene and told officers that patient confidentiality had no bearing on news coverage in a public setting. An officer then arrested Williams and took him to jail. Freitag was arrested by another officer when he tried to photograph Williams being led into the jail.
Police chief Armand Chapeau said a misunderstanding of the law led to the arrests, and told the newspaper that “corrective action” would be taken to keep the problem from occurring in the future.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.