We have no reason to doubt the sincerity of Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna’s strong support for a federal reporter shield law. He’s been a champion of open government for a long time.
But it doesn’t hurt to be standing up for the press during an election season when he’s facing a strong opponent and a few friendly newspaper endorsements would certainly help.
Consider this headline on a news release today from McKenna’s office:
McKenna leads national movement for reporter shield law
Gladdens a jounalist’s heart, doesn’t it? The release announced that McKenna and his counterpart from Maryland persuaded 39 other state attorneys general to sign a letter urging Senate leaders to support the Free Flow of Information Act.
The act, similar to laws adopted in 49 states and the District of Columbia, recognizes a “qualified” reporter’s privilege to withhold the identity of sources. The bill has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate. McKenna declared:
"Many of our country’s biggest investigative stories have been based in part on information from confidential sources. Responsible journalism demands responsible use of such sources. Failing to protect anonymous sources strangles the free flow of information that is life’s breath of democracy."
Gosh, that sends tingles down my spine.
Because I’m retiring, I won’t be around when our editorial board decides its endorsement in the race between Republican McKenna and Democrat John Ladenburg, the Pierce County executive.
That’s going to be a tough choice for the board, I think. Ladenburg has an impressive record as county executive and he’s a hometown guy. But we also like the way McKenna has backed the cause of open government since he took office. Among other things, he created a post for an open-government ombudsman.
Ladenburg didn’t score any points with us by opposing a bill last session that would have required local government bodies to record executive sessions. The idea was to create a record that could be examined by a judge if officials were accused of illegally making decisions behind closed doors.