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Editorials

  • Journalists’ work as watchdogs unquestionable

    By KEN PAULSON
    First Amendment Center
    There’s a running joke among journalists that they went into the news business because they didn’t do well in math.
    As a longtime journalist who struggled with freshman algebra, I can relate.
    Still, even those of us with anxiety about numbers have come to embrace the investigative value of data.
    Number-crunching and access to public records drive some of the news media’s most powerful and important reporting, including these examples from the past year:

  • We can celebrate Sunshine Week every day of year

    By KENT FLANAGAN
    Tennessee Coalition for Open Government
    It’s Sunshine Week in America, the one week of the year celebrated by news organizations and open government advocates about keeping government honest.
    Watchdogs of the Fourth Estate have made it their duty to report on the actions taken by local, state and federal government.  And the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, or TCOG, was created to preserve and improve access to public information.

  • GUEST OPINION:Diversity of conscience treasured here

    By CHARLES C. HAYNES
    First Amendment Center
    Award-winning author John M. Barry has done it again.

    In two previous best-selling books, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History and Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, Barry not only told the gripping stories of two critical historical events, but he also helped shape public policy on issues of vital importance to the United States and the world.

  • GUEST OPINION: Care needed when dealing with Occupy camps

    A long winter for the Occupy Wall Street movement has seen a shift in tactics by cities, towns and state legislatures seeking to remove many of the estimated 600 encampments nationwide.

    Some Occupy groups camped on public property have obtained court rulings that permit them to protest anytime in public spaces, but not to keep tents or sleeping bags on the sites. Elsewhere, formal or informal bargains have been struck that allow tents but not the accessories of camping — in effect permitting momentary shelters, not encampments.

  • GUEST OPINION: Tobacco case: Feds’ warnings went too far

    By KEN PAULSON
    First Amendment Center
    The federal government can require that tobacco companies warn the public about health hazards, but it can’t force them to scare smokers out of the habit.

    That was the finding recently by Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., who struck down a Food and Drug Administration rule as a violation of the First Amendment. Leon had earlier issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the FDA from requiring the new warning labels on cigarette packs.

  • GUEST OPINION:St. Louis case: When is a sign free speech?

    By KEN PAULSON
    First Amendment Center
    In declining to review a ruling that invalidated a St. Louis sign ordinance, the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand an opinion that both supports freedom of speech and reinforces the core values of the First Amendment.

    In 2007, Jim Roos had a 360-ft.-square mural posted on the side of an apartment building.

    Its message: “End eminent domain abuse.”

    The city of St. Louis said the sign was too large and ordered Roos to take it down, leading to a court battle.

  • GUEST OPINION: Booking photos — public record or intrusion?

    By GENE POLICINSKI
    First Amendment Center
    The mug shots of recently arrested federal prisoners are private and in most cases not available to the public, a federal appeals panel decided Feb. 22, turning back a request from the Tulsa (Okla.) World newspaper.

    The three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a district court decision, rejected a number of arguments by the newspaper about the benefits of public access to U.S. Marshals Service booking photos.

  • GUEST OPINION: Unnecessary profanity law has no place

    By KEN PAULSON
    First Amendment Center
    An odd piece of legislation has been introduced in the Arizona Legislature that would discipline public school teachers for using profanity in the classroom.

    It’s unusual on a couple of fronts.

    First of all, there doesn’t seem to be any widespread problem in Arizona with profane teachers. Secondly, the bill uses the standards of the Federal Communications Commission’s indecency restrictions.

  • OUR OPINION: Rockwood city financials need action, oversight

    We hope the residents of Rockwood  are concerned about recent revelations that the city may be over budget and short on reserves.

    City officials there have had full plates with utility and other issues, but the most important of their duties is wise spending of the taxpayers’ dollars.

    Officials seemed unsure where the final talley will fall when certain projects are done and certain revenues come in.

    Hoping to break even is the best option we’ve heard tossed out there, but it didn’t seem like a strong possibility.

  • (Mis)conduct of police should be recordable

    By KEN PAULSON
    First Amendment Center
    Imagine Rodney King in the YouTube era.
    The beating captured on a camcorder in 1991 was seen on at least 240 TV stations around the world, impressive for pre-digital days, and served notice on law enforcement officers that cameras could capture them at their best — and worst.
    Today, when laughing babies can yield 42 million views, images of officers beating a suspect would go viral in minutes.