Tuesday, January 18, 2005

All the News That's Fit to Link, Part II

I've now uploaded additional documents in the ongoing litigation between the Sun and Governor Ehrlich. An index which describes and links to the documents can be found here.

The story has now gotten national attention, including a mention in The New Republic. (While some articles in TNR are available for free online, the weekly Notebook feature in which the comment appears is available to subscribers only.)

In a nutshell, Ehrlich is contending that all that he is doing is blocking reporter Nitkin and commentator Olesker from so-called "particularized" access to governmental officials. That is, direct, private interviews, off-the-record briefings, etc. The Governor is simply lying.

The initial memo (which can be found on page 8 of the Sunpaper's Complaint) is not limited in any way. It states categorically that no one in the Executive Department or any agency is to "return calls or comply with any requests" from Nitkin and Olesker. More recently, Nitkin was locked out of a public press conference on the pretext that it was by invitation only. See here. Thus, it is manifest that the Governor is attempting nothing less than to embargo governmental information from flowing to these two journalists.

There are actually three disturbing aspects to this case.

The first is, of course, that an elected official feels that he has the power to lock out specific reporters from access to information whenever they displease him. Ehrlich's arrogance in this regard is best illustrated by his reference to "his government" and his quite explicit intent to create a "chilling effect" upon the journalists.

The second is more subtle. The Sun has made overtures to the Governor that would resolve this matter in an amicable way. Obviously, I am not privy to the discussions between the Governor's office and the Sun, but it strikes me that the Sun's attempt to make nice is wholly inappropriate. What Ehrlich has done is unacceptable and the Sun should offer him nothing but the back of its hand and the rough of its tongue.

Finally, this is a matter that should not be reported merely in snippets. The Sun should do what I have undertaken to do--publish on the web the source documents from both sides.

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