mcurtis at LAW.WFU.EDU
Wed Oct 31 16:17:08 PST 2001
Freedom of the Press extends only to those who own one.
James Maule wrote:
> I don't quite see the constitutional overtones in the issue, unless perhaps it involves in a global/national context the sorts of constitutional rights of victims that are asserted in the parallel individual crime contexts in which the media puts 99% of its coverage on the rights and treatment of an accused and 1% of its attention on the victim. (And even here, a parallel between a crime and an act of war isn't precisely parallel.) To the extent victims and victim rights organizations assert and seek redress and attention, constitutional issues would include the question of the extent, if any, to which the government could compel the press to balance its reporting (I doubt it can, at least not directly), the implications for due process (consider the rulings that tend to shield the jury from press reports about the victim or the impact of the crime on others associated with or dependent on the victim), and the extent to which dealing with the matter of war reporting changes th!
> e analyses from those applicable to crime reporting (both of which implicate a variety of constitutional issues arising from matters of undisclosed sources, withheld information, and sensationalism (all of which exist in both contexts)).
> Incidentally, CNN has been accused by many people of being very "pro-unAmerican" and has been defended by other people as being "balanced." The actions of CNN's chair suggests that the former accusations have resonated in the boardroom. Interesting. As for media executives micro-managing (and they do it all the time.... ask someone working as a reporter or anchor for a local TV news show), I don't see constitutional issues. A reporter's First Amendment rights don't rise to the level of curtailing the media outlet's ownership from exercising its rights (and I think there were some cases to this effect).
> Jim Maule
> Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law
> Villanova PA 19085
> maule at law.villanova.edu
> President, TaxJEM Inc (computer assisted tax law instruction) (www.taxjem.com)
> Publisher, JEMBook Publishing Co. (www.jembook.com)
> Maule Family Archivist & Genealogist (www.maulefamily.com)
> >>> RJLipkin at AOL.COM 10/31/01 07:25AM >>>
> Today's Washington Post reports: "The chairman of CNN has ordered his
> staff to balance images of civilian devastation in Afghan cities with
> reminders that the Taliban harbors murderous terrorists, saying it 'seems
> perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan.' In
> a memo to his international correspondents, Walter Isaacson said: "'As we get
> good reports from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, we must redouble our
> efforts to make sure we do not seem to be simply reporting from their vantage
> or perspective. We must talk about how the Taliban are using civilian shields
> and how the Taliban have harbored the terrorists responsible for killing
> close to 5,000 innocent people. . . . We're entering a period in which
> there's a lot more reporting and video from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan,'"
> he said. "'You want to make sure people understand that when they see
> civilian suffering there, it's in the context of a terrorist attack that
> caused enormous suffering in the United States.'"
> One can see a variant of the policy at work today. Earlier this
> morning Leon Harris, an anchor on CNN, carefully 'alerted' the public that
> continued U.S. bombing was in retaliation to 9/11. In an interview with Nic
> Roberts (?), a CNN journalist in Afghanistan, Harris asked Roberts how
> ordinary civilians feel about the Taliban and the bombing. Roberts said the
> people support the Taliban and oppose the bombing,. Harris next queried
> whether these beliefs were coerced by the Taliban. When Roberts responded
> that clearly the civilians were expressing their own beliefs, indeed there
> own passionate beliefs, Harris replied while ending the interview something
> along the line of "But the civilians see and hear only what the Taliban let
> them hear." (I'm paraphrasing here.) The manner and context of his final
> comment implied that everyone knows that this is true. How does he know this?
> Shouldn't this itself be a subject for reporting not assumption.
> Now there's nothing wrong with a broadcast executive exhorting his or
> her journalists to conduct balanced reporting. I am troubled, however, when
> such an executive asks anchor persons to keep reminding the American public
> that our military expedition in Afghanistan is in retaliation for even an
> admitted abomination. Additionally, the context here is critical. Take a good
> look at several foreign online newspapers and I think you might wonder
> whether CNN even approaches 'balanced' news reports, whatever that means
> anyway. Thus, the CNN chairperson's exhortation appears to imply a request
> (or an order) to CNN journalists to make sure to tell America's side in the
> conflict as the CNN chairperson sees it. (I urge anyone interested in this
> story to go to the Post article herself. I am not at all confident that the
> above characterization of this issue is correct or complete.)
> My query to members of the list, especially those who specialize in
> theories of the role of free media in a democracy, is this: Should media
> executives micro-manage news reporting in the way described in the article.
> My intuitions lead me to believe--given what I know about the bombing from
> other sources--that the CNN chairperson is simply trying to 'balance' the
> news reporting in his favor and is in no way concerned with fair news
> reporting. But intuitions are one thing, reflective judgments another. What
> do others think? Thanks.
> Bobby Lipkin
> Widener University School of Law
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