Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: media


Administration must respect media’s government watchdog role

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

In his speech Thursday on national security, President Barack Obama said the right things about the media’s role as government watchdogs. Now the question is whether his administration’s actions will connect to his words.

Obama said that a free press is essential for our democracy: “I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.”

You’d never guess it from his detached tone, but he was referring to two abusive leak investigations undertaken

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Death of a president? Not so fast

It didn’t look good Thursday for former President George H.W. Bush. News reports had him in intensive care with his family gathering and not talking to the media.

As per usual practice when a notable person might be near death, news organizations had their prepared obituaries ready. (Macabre, I know.) McClatchy’s Washington bureau sent out a wire message that its obit was “ready to move when the 41st president dies.” We were monitoring the updates on the theory that if Bush died, we’d want to write an editorial to appear Sunday or Monday.

Being ready to go with coverage of

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Hecht case shows the necessity of healthy newsrooms

The authors of the Washington Post piece below, a couple of lefties, propose government subsidies as a remedy for ailing news operations. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Goodbye, independent press.

But they do get the diagnosis right: “The problem is that newspaper newsrooms, once packed with reporters, are disappearing, and neither broadcast nor digital media are filling the void.”

There’s no way this is not going to sound self-serving, but democratic self-government depends on healthy newsrooms (traditional or Web-based – but I’ve yet to see a purely Web-supported one).

This is a roundabout way of calling attention to the role this newspaper has played in helping Pierce County rid itself of a bad judge, Michael Hecht. (He’s not gone yet, but his felony conviction Wednesday guarantees he’ll go.) The News Tribune broke the news last January that the Tacoma police had investigated his reported use of prostitutes and his reported death threat against one of them.

Our newsroom has bird-dogged the story ever since. On the opinion section, we printed an early demand for answers from bar leaders and pressed the state Attorney General’s office not let the case drop (not prosecuting is always easier and cheaper than prosecuting).

Result: Hecht’s on his way out. He might otherwise have been looking forward to three more years on the bench.

I can’t think of a better example of how newsrooms alert citizens to rot in government. You may not be a fan of newspapers per se, but they’d best not wither completely on the vine before the Web can match their capacity to break original stories.

By Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols
Special to The Washington Post
Special to The Washington Post

President Obama, a self-declared “big newspaper junkie,” fears he might be forced to go cold turkey. “I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding,” he said last month to newspaper editors who asked about the crisis that threatens their industry and journalism in general.
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Time to pass a federal shield law

Let’s be clear on the subject of keeping sources confidential: Journalists don’t like doing it, and their editors absolutely hate it.

In fact, everyone connected with news reporting would prefer to always attribute information to the people who provide it. Stories are stronger when sources agree to attach their names to allegations.

But the reality is that sometimes sources face retaliation – anything from getting fired to getting killed – if their names become known. Sometimes protecting sources’ identities is the only way important information can come to light. And that’s why journalists have been willing to go to jail – to protect their sources and the principle of confidentiality.
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