AP still feels effects after DOJ probe
Friday, November 8, 2013
Posted by: Laura Sellers-Earl
By Devan Filchak
Ball State University APME Coverage Team
Months after private phone records of Associated Press journalists
were seized in a Department of Justice investigation, some sources still are
wary about talking to the news agency.
"It is a cliché, but it’s true,” said Kathleen Carroll, AP
senior vice president and executive editor. "It’s a chilling effect, and people
don’t want to talk to us.” Carroll joined a panel of AP editors at the 80th
annual Associated Press Media Editors convention in Indianapolis to discuss the
organization’s top initiatives.
"It’s not just Deep Throat sources putting flower pots on
balconies. These are good civil servants who care about the job they do for the
government that employs them,” she said before the session.
"They worry that if their phone records show up with a call
to a reporter, however benign the topic or ordinary the topic might be, it
could harm their careers.”
Could it happen again?
"We are unaware of it, but we were unaware of it until after
the fact when it happened the first time,” she said. "We learned … up to three
months after the subpoena was executed. It is possible that another subpoena
has been issued but we won’t know about it until later.”
DOJ guidelines say journalists cannot be labeled as criminal
co-conspirators when the government seeks a search warrant for obtaining
records, similar to the phone records gathered from the AP earlier this year.
Last May, 21 phone records of Associated Press journalists
were seized. AP estimated the information from more than 100 reporters and
editors was included.
Carroll said the telephone companies were told to comply and
not tell the news cooperative, and the records were in prosecutors’ hands for
weeks before the news organization knew about it.
"There were 21 phone numbers including fax machines and the
locations of a bureau where one of the reporters at the center of this had not
worked in many years,” she said. "What does that have to do with anything?”
Carroll worked with AP CEO Gary Pruitt on the response to
the records case, and she said Pruitt’s background as a First Amendment
attorney was helpful.
"(Pruitt) believes deeply in these issues even though he is
wearing a much bigger hat now,” she said. "To have him as an industry leader on
a global scale to be as forceful as he was, really was important for us both in
the AP and for the profession at large.”
Carroll said the best thing journalists can do, whether they
are covering city council meetings or international news, is to know their
"If you don’t understand those laws, you are failing,” she
said. "You are completely unequipped to exercise your rights.”