Stop The New American Censorship
Stop the New American Censorship
Dear Valley Journals reader,
Here at The Valley Journals we’re proud to continue our longstanding tradition of providing you with profiles of candidates who are running for office in federal, state, county and school board races.
There are many issues facing our nation that demand your attention, but there is one that has been going on below the radar for some time. It’s an assault on a free press – and therefore, a free nation.
In the last few years, government entities across the nation, from the largest federal bureaucracies on down to the smallest communities even here in Utah, have started to hire public relations-trained staff members called public information officers to “manage the media.”
In many government offices, all the way down to the smallest communities, reporters can often no longer talk directly to the government employees who deal with the beats they cover: crime, road projects, schools, etc. Everything must be funneled through the PIO.
This often leads to incorrect information, since the information is second-hand at best, and even intimidation of government employees whose interactions with the media are monitored by PIOs and reported to their bosses. Often government employees are coached on what to say and how to say it.
A recent example in the Salt Lake Valley: a news reporter was chewed out by a police department PIO for talking directly to the investigating detective on a vehicle break-in he was covering. When the reporter asked how he was supposed to make sure the information was accurate without talking to the investigating officer, he was told: “You will write the story we give you!”
Is this the government you want? Is this the free press you envision? Do you want us to write the stories they “give” us? Do you want news of what your government is doing scrubbed, sanitized and spun? Or do you want to know the truth – warts and all?
Because we think you care, we’ve asked the candidates to sign a pledge found at http://www.sandyjournal.com/pages/Open_Government_Pledges/ promising they will work against this censorship. Email and express your support to those who signed. (The above logo will be posted next to their profile if they have.) Ask those who haven’t, why not. *
After all, this is the United States of America, not the United States of China.
*(Some have responded, saying that while they support open government and do not support inappropriate practices by PIOS, they do not, on principle, sign pledges. You may read their responses online. Many have not responded.)
Managing Editor, The Valley Journals
President, Utah Foundation for Open Government
Chair, Society of Professional Journalists national Freedom of Information Committee
FOI, board member, Utah Headliners SPJ chapter