Recently in Fall 2001 Category

First Amendment attorney Lee Levine says that the biggest victory for the press in Bartnicki v. Vopper is that the Supreme Court re-affirmed the principle established in New York Times v. Sullivan, that the media cannot be punished for publishing truthful information about a matter of public concern.

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon

News reporting as it should be done, with a greater focus on hard news, issues, and international concerns, has resurfaced in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11. This was the overall consensus of the audience and panel gathered for a public forum where media experts discussed how their industry has been covering news since September 11. The event, held in Cowles Auditorium of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute on the evening of October 22, attracted a diverse audience that raised issues ranging from government censorship of news to increased coverage of the impact of the war at home. The forum was co-sponsored by the Silha Center.

Ohio Man Jailed For Diary Contents

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon

In early July, an Ohio man, 22-year-old Brian Dalton, was sentenced to serve ten years in prison for writing about his sexual fantasies in his diary. Already convicted in 1998 on charges of possessing photographs of child pornography, Dalton had served several months of jail time before being released on probation. His probation included homework assignments he was required to complete as part of his sex-offender treatment program. When the assignments were not completed as directed, he was arrested again for failing to comply. His parents, who had gone to clean his apartment in his absence, discovered the diary. They turned the diary over to authorities, hoping that their son's parole would be revoked for a year or two, enabling him to receive extensive sex-offender treatment in prison. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Michael and Sarah Dalton have said that their decision might not have been the wisest choice, but they felt that it was morally the best thing to do. The contents of the diary describe Dalton's fantasies involving three children - two of them his cousins - ages 10 and 11. Dalton's diary described placing them in a cage in his basement, and detailed how the children were abducted, subsequently raped and tortured. When Christian Somis, an assistant county prosecutor in Franklin Country, read portions of the diary aloud to a grand jury, he was asked to stop after only two pages due to the disturbing content of the diary. Reportedly, one of the female jurors was in tears.

War Against Terrorism Means New Challenges For News Media

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon

Responding to the events of September 11, 2001, the White House and other governmental agencies have made requests and, in some instances, placed restrictions on the media and American citizens regarding speech and information. Examples of those restrictions and requests include:

Journalists' Records Subpoenaed In Separate Cases

By Bastiaan Vanacker

Two recent cases have raised concern in the journalistic community about the Justice Department's policy on issuing subpoenas against journalists. Since July 20, Vanessa Leggett has been in the Federal Detention Center in Houston, Texas, for failure to turn over subpoenaed interview notes and tapes that could identify some of her confidential sources to a federal grand jury investigating a four-year-old Houston murder. No other American journalist has been jailed as long for refusing to identify a confidential source. And in May, the Justice Department subpoenaed the telephone records of an investigative journalist, John Solomon, seeking to learn the source of leaked material from a political corruption investigation. Vanessa Leggett, a 33-year-old aspiring writer, assistant professor and former private investigator in Houston, Texas, claims to have been working on a book about the 1997 murder of Doris Angleton. Robert Angleton, Doris' husband, was accused and acquitted on state charges of hiring his brother to shoot his wife. Leggett had conducted extensive research on the case; she had over 200 hours of taped interviews with Roger Angleton, Robert's brother and the alleged murderer, who committed suicide while awaiting trial. She had also interviewed a number of other witnesses regarding the case. When a Houston grand jury tried to make its case against the brothers, Leggett shared her materials with prosecutors, including the taped conversations. She was subpoenaed but never called to testify for the grand jury.

By Bastiaan Vanacker

During the summer of 2001, the Minnesota News Council (MNC) heard two complaints brought by government bodies against local newspapers. The Ely City Council submitted a complaint against the Ely Echo regarding an April 30 story on a closed meeting held by the council. The Winona County Board of Commissioners filed a complaint against the Winona Post, claiming that one of its editorials unfairly accused the board of conducting an illegal meeting and that the newspaper's response to the board's complaint was inadequate. In the Ely Post case, MNC members unanimously voted in favor of the paper; in the Winona Post case, the MNC narrowly sided with the Winona County Board of Commissioners.

By Jane E. Kirtley This essay originally appeared on the Web site of the Poynter Institute,, and is reproduced with permission.

It's going to be a secret war on terrorism. The president has said so. Much of what the government will do, in the Middle East, in Central Asia, and even here at home, in the name of the American people, will be kept from us. Up to a point, even the most ardent Freedom of Information advocate can accept that some secrecy is essential. A covert operation can't be conducted in public. No journalist would want to be told that a news story revealing operational details led to the death of American troops. And if experience is any guide, the public will tolerate, even embrace, the military's insistence on secrecy, at least in the short term.



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