Two months ago I wrote about a couple of incidents in which authorities stood in the way of newspaper reporters or photographers doing their jobs, taking it upon themselves to decide just what the public had a right to read or see.
The everybody-wants-to-be-the-editor phenomenon surfaced again at the funeral of Stan Cooper, the federal courthouse security officer killed during a gun battle with a man upset over the outcome of his court case.
The funeral was in a large church, and the public was invited.
Our reporter Richard Lake arrived early and was in the church talking with officials of the church about the services. Everyone was cooperative.
Lake made the mistake of going outside to talk with our photographer, who was not allowed inside with his equipment. Several reporters from various media were talking to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police public information officer Bill Cassell, and Lake joined the group.
Cassell asked Lake where he had been, and Lake replied he had been inside the church. Cassell told Lake he was not allowed in the church on orders of the U.S. Marshal Service. To which Lake replied he would put away his notebook and pocket his Review-Journal photo identification badge, which was hanging visibly from his belt, and then enter the church like any other member of the public. At this point Cassell said he would have him arrested.
Rather than risk spending the night in jail, Lake returned to the office to watch the televised services while the city desk sent another reporter, without badge showing, to report from inside.
I filed a formal protest that afternoon with Sheriff Doug Gillespie, who had been inside the church and unaware any of this was taking place.
"I wish to formally object to this treatment of our reporter," I wrote, "who should not be singled out for discrimination and exclusion merely on the basis of his profession. What possible grounds would a police officer have for making such an arrest? Even under orders from the U.S. marshals, who also have no such authority, there is no basis for threatening arrest of a journalist."
The sheriff called that evening. I explained what had happened, and he promised to look into the matter.
The next morning Gillespie left a phone message:
"Based on what I was briefed, we did not handle that appropriately. I understand the U.S. marshals wanted to deny access but that wasn't appropriate and, if I had been made aware of that in advance, I could've made a call and I think taken care of that. My people have been briefed in regards to my expectations for these types of events in the future."
It is good see to a public official who acts responsibly and promptly, realizing he is the sheriff and not the editor.
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A reader questions our polling:
Like the old saw about the liberal journalist who reportedly remarked after President Nixon's 1972 election victory, "How can that be? No one I know voted for Nixon!" come the letter writers who don't believe our polls showing Sen. Harry Reid trailing Republican opponents.
Here is one such letter verbatim: "Please, enough of your one sided polls. Do you always poll the minority to speak for the majority. Certainly Sen. Reid doesn't do well in your polls, you only poll Consevatives. And then you print it like it's actually news. No wonder print media is going under. You consevatives support 'smaller' govt because you want to be dictated to by the corporate aristocracy, the majority of us reject this idea. Corporations do not create jobs, governments do by regulating markets, creating a stable currancy, and enforcing trade regulations. Free trade isn't free and your polls are misleading. Whatever happened to printing the truth?"
His grasp of economics and polling techniques are both lacking. My reply is that we have decades of results with our pollster Mason-Dixon Polling & Research showing the polls closest to the election closely match the outcome.
For example, in 2008, Mason-Dixon's final poll before that year's general election showed Barack Obama winning Nevada by 4 percentage points. When the 8 percent of undecideds decided on Election Day, Obama won by 7 points, well within the margin of error.
Our editorial page may be fiscally conservative, but our news coverage is down the middle and lets the chips fall where they may. If we were constantly wrong, we'd lose our credibility and our readers.
The proof is in the outcome, year after year.
Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Review-Journal writes on the role of the press and access to public records and meetings. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at lvrj.com/blogs/mitchell.