Saturday, April 16, 2005


Kudos to my old hometown newspaper, the Hattiesburg American of Mississippi, for receiving the Gannett Freedom of Information Award for it's efforts against the U.S. Marshals Service after an incident last year during a visit to the Pine Belt by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

While Scalia was delivering a speech at a Hattiesburg area Christian school, marshals providing security confiscated tape recorders from reporters representing the American and the Associated Press; the tapes were erased. The reporters were never advised that recording devices were banned, and a lawsuit was filed by the organizations against the Marshals Service.

The litigation was eventually settled with the Marshals Service changing it's policy regarding media at events where they are providing security and a $1,000 award to the reporters, the newspaper, and the wire service in addition to covering some of the legal fees incurred. More importantly, the USMS admitted that it's agent acted inproperly in the incident.

The reporters also received a letter of apology from Justice Scalia, while stating that he did not request the recording devices to be seized.

This shows that it doesn't always take the New York Times, Washington Post, or other big-name and well-heeled media types to bring change. Sure, the American is owned by Gannett (which in Tampa Bay owns WTSP-10), but they handled the situation themselves without a lot of corporate types.

The newspaper's then-executive editor, Jon K. Broadbooks, is now serving in the same capacity at the Utica Observer-Dispatch in New York State. The reporter whose recorder was seized, Antionette Konz, is now the education reporter for Alabama's Montgomery Advertiser.


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