May 31, 2013
Several significant US news organizations reject the Department of Justice’s proposal to discuss off-the-record ‘new guidelines’ in light of the reporter wiretapping scandal. Last week President Obama urged the DOJ to search a consensus with the media.
Major news outlets, including Associated Press, the New York Times and the Huffington Post refused to attend the DoJ ‘reconciliation’ meeting on the current rules governing federal leaks investigations unless it is fully recorded and could be transformed into news.
President Obama appointed the US Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct meetings with news organizations, including internet media outlets, radio stations, TV channels, wire services, and media associations concerning new media guidelines.
To begin with, Holder plans to gather bureau chiefs of Washington-based national news organizations within next two days. Experts from government agencies in intelligence and investigation are to attend the meeting as well.
But the outcry raised by the scandal with the DoJ secretly recording phone calls of Associated Press reporters and gathering emails of a Fox News journalist made the proposed hush-hush dialogue unacceptable for insulted media outlets.
All hell broke loose on May 13 when the president of the Associated Press Gary Pruitt officially protested to Holder over the department’s broad surveillance of more than 100 individual reporters’ phone conversations. The AP called the ongoing monitoring a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
“It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off-the-record meeting with the attorney general,” New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson announced in a statement. “Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department’s handling of leak investigations at this time.”
AP media relations manager Erin Madigan White even threatened DoJ that, should the meeting not be recorded, the news outlets will come together and share their point of view as to how DoJ media regulation should be updated in an open letter. But if the DOJ agrees to record the event, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend it, White said.
Moreover, AP expects its attorneys to attend any future meetings on the legal specifics between the attorney-general’s office and media lawyers.
“Evidently, there will be a future session with department officials on the substance of how the law should be applied in leak cases and I am hopeful that our counsel, David McCraw, will be able to participate in that meeting,” Jill Abramson said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
According to a tweet by the Huffington Post’s Senior Media Reporter Michael Calderone, the HP will also not attend the meeting unless there is a record.
At the same time POLITICO Editor-in-Chief John Harris will attend this week’s private meeting with Holder, as well as the Washington Post’s representative.
The meetings, aimed at restoring the trust of the US media community in the government security agencies, are scheduled to take place within weeks.
Obama is waiting for recommended media policy changes from Holder, empowered to report directly to the president on recommended media policy, by July 12.