Last week, Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, gave a disquieting address to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies focusing on the danger to our open records and access laws as regional newspapers and other media organizations pare their legal budgets.
In the address, Dalglish outlined major advances in open government and press freedom achieved in the last 50 years: the Freedom of Information Act, open courts, case law preventing prior restraint and spurious libel claims, shield laws and whistleblower protections, countless state and local statutes that require open records and meetings.
And how does Dalglish say America won those fights?
Media companies, mostly newspapers, paid for all of this. It wasn’t cheap. They made money, to be sure. But they spent a lot of that money fighting for the public’s right to know what its public and private institutions were up to. They spent the money on your behalf. You may have noticed your local media have hit hard times. It’s been much worse than the economy as a whole…
Who will suffer when these mainstream media companies no longer launch these battles?
We all will.