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Thursday, July 21, 2011

'Tabloids do not deserve the First Amendment,' LA Times Op-Ed

"Something can be criminal when it involves expression."... "The FBI opened an inquiry late last week into Rupert Murdoch's media empire amid allegations that British reporters tried to access cellphone messages and records of Sept. 11 victims.... Although these kinds of tactics may come as a shock to the public, I witnessed many of the same tactics while working as a cub reporter for the Globe tabloid in the late 1990s. Some American tabloids do not operate much differently from British ones. Many of the editors who reign over American tabloid newsrooms hail from Britain where tabloid "journalists" have justified their tactics by deluding themselves that they are avengers for the working class, exposing the decadence of the rich and famous as well as the royal family. I observed tabloid reporters and editors prey on the families of murder victims and witnesses by hiring investigators to access their credit card and phone records. My editors sometimes tried to bribe or blackmail government officials for information. The problem isn't Rupert Murdoch. The problem is that the culture of tabloid journalism in both Britain and the United States is deeply tied to criminal acts. Without illegal conduct, tabloids could not preempt the mainstream press, and they would not survive.... Although the law provides us with the tools we need to punish crimes related to free speech, the judicial system is too quick to bow before the 1st Amendment, and as a result we end up shielding criminals who
  • misrepresent themselves as journalists and activists.
If Congress truly wants to resolve this issue, it should take a cue from the British Parliament and hold hearings to investigate this systemic problem. This is not just a matter of ineffective prosecution and judicial weakness. The root of the problem is our reluctance as a nation to accept that
  • something can be criminal when it involves expression.
Crime is crime. Tabloid journalism uses illegal tactics, and it does not deserve absolute protection from the 1st Amendment."
  • via Poynter.org/Romenesko

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