The news waits for no one … except the courts

December 12, 2008

The words “free press” and “First Amendment” are becoming more and more oxymoronic these days, and what better place for it to happen than in Ventura County? Moronic is more like it, considering a gag order placed by a judge on the folks over at the VC Star.

Based on a tidbit of reporting on themselves, it seems like the paper has been barred indefinitely from covering a story involving a murder of a local six-year-old. Apparently, there were some sealed documents — namely, search warrants — a superior court judge doesn’t want anyone to read (namely, newspaper readers!).

Now, it doesn’t matter what the paper is or who it’s competing with: the Star, like any other paper, should have journalistic access to public documents and delineate them as such: as public news. Just like the VC Reporter should, or the L.A. Times, or any one of thousands of publications.

Should journalists hold back sometimes? Could putting all the facts out there unfairly influence a jury? (Its members could stay away from the news racks, after all.) Could they endanger those sensitive to the case? (There is such a thing as police protection, after all).  Or would it be just another excuse for not standing up to our First Amendment rights?


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