Pence says shield law needed more than ever
Friday, November 8, 2013
Posted by: Laura Sellers-Earl
By Devan Filchak
Ball State University APME Coverage Team
Reporters need the protection of a federal media shield law,
and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who sponsored shield legislation while in
Congress, said he renewed his call for the protection after news surfaced about
government monitoring of Associated Press phone calls.
"I really do believe that media shields are not about
protecting reporters - it is about protecting the public’s right to know,”
Pence said at the opening session of the national Associated Press Media
Editors conference in Indianapolis.
"The ability to keep confidential sources confidential is an
essential part of the news gathering process.”
Pence said he wrote to House and Senate leaders following
news that phone records from 21 AP reporters were subpoenaed by the U.S.
Department of Justice.
Pence said state shield laws already in place aren’t enough.
"The First Amendment was always considered to be sufficient
(previously),” he said. "I noted over the last decade a disturbing pattern of
cases where reporters were being placed in a position to reveal confidential
sources, and that’s what motivated me to introduce the Free Flow of Information
APME represents newspaper editors from across the United
States and Canada. The theme of this year’s conference is "Content Is King,” a
reference to the industry’s efforts to monetize its flow of text, photos, video
and other content across platforms.
Kay Coyte, The Washington Post managing editor, said the
theme "Content is King” is about newsrooms digging deeper and going beyond a
Coyte pointed to a series her newspaper produced about
Washington homeowners losing their homes due to a faulty tax system.
The Post exposed the problem through deep investigation and
tracked down the homeowners. The articles drew strong responses and the mayor
promised the problem would be resolved.
After the series was published, Coyte said The Post did not
relent on the issue, continuing to hold people accountable.
"We challenged the elected leaders in D.C.,” Coyte said. "We
kept at them, like terriers, at their heals.”
The first session of the day dealt with a particularly
thorny issue for mainstream media outlets: access to sports events in the
John Cherwa, of the Los Angeles Times, said his newspaper
has fought to retain access to players and coaches of the Lakers as the NBA
team’s owners increasingly grant greater access to the team’s television media
Recently, for example, the Lakers granted Time-Warner Cable
greater access on a team trip to China.
"‘I can give you 5 billion reasons why we did it that way,’”
Cherwa said, quoting John Black, the Lakers’ vice-president of public
relations. He said Black was referring to Time-Warner’s $5 billion, 25-year TV
contract with the team.
Pence said the media’s work is essential in preserving
freedom in the country.
"I want to thank all of you for the work that you do each
and every day to make the theme of this conference a reality in your newspapers:
‘Content is King.’ And when you all are doing your job then the American people
are better informed and better able to make informed choices about policies
that affect their lives,” the governor said.
Pence said local newspapers are vital to helping people make
informed decisions about their communities. Like politics, he said, "All news
"The news that is most important to most Hoosiers is that
which bears most closely on their lives,” he said.
"I’m confident through changes in that marketplace, that we
will continue to see local newspapers evolve and adjust. But at the end of the
day, being able to flip open my computer or open a newspaper and be able to see
what’s going on at my community will always be enormously important.”
Editors at newspapers everywhere are adapting to new
technology and what their audiences want.
For Danny Gawlowski, photo/video editor at The Seattle
Times, it’s all about content.
"If you want to become a destination people want to come to,
we need to use all the media available to us,” Gawlowski said. "We want a
little bit ‘wow,’ we want engagement. We don’t want to be just headlines.”
Thomas Koetting, deputy managing editor at Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel, said it’s important to remember content takes many forms.
"...It’s video, chats, blogs, text,” Koetting said. "We have
to figure out a way to maximize our content.”
Mitchell Paul, Indiana University, and Anna Ortiz, Ball
State University, also contributed to this report.