Native Writes: The truth will keep us free


Someone recently asked me what I would do if the government subpoenaed my emails.

Wow! Please do!

And while you’re at it, tell me you’re going to court to obtain my notes on any given story.

Hey, I’ll give them to you! Save the taxpayer some money.

A prosecutor once expressed the belief that I knew more about an officer involved shooting than had gone into print.

I said everything I knew had been reported, but he demanded my notes. I refused.

“Then I’ll subpoena them,” he said.

I handed him my note pad.

He mumbled some profanity and declared, “Nobody alive can read these!”

My handwriting isn’t the best, my third-grade penmanship teacher notwithstanding. She gave me four gold stars.

I smiled and told the lawyer. “I said I’d give you the notes, I didn’t say I’d translate them.”

Most people have their own ways of taking notes and even if shorthand comes into play, they need an interpreter.

Journalists usually report the essence of a story, but never word for word.

Word for word. That’s neither fair nor possible.

But, then, I have spent more than 50 years in print journalism.

Videotapes have much more detail and digital recordings are more complete.

From the Founding Fathers on down, a free and vigorous press has been considered essential to honest government, yet journalists must still struggle to gain access to necessary information.

Here in the San Luis Valley, law enforcement and government entities are generally cooperative, but some seem to believe they are the controllers of all information. Someone burps and a gag order is requested. Another burp and the judge grants it.

When that happens, we are on our own and will gather the information by other means. We will also retain notes, videos and recordings “just in case.”

States and the federal government highly regard the First Amendment and have passed freedom of information and reporter shield laws.

A friend recently asked, jokingly, if journalists are licensed.

I replied that we carry proof of rabies vaccination with us and some of us are chipped in case we turn up missing. We reject tags and collars, though.

The closest any of us come is carrying credentials issued by state press associations. I have only needed that identification twice and was granted access after some discussion.

I suppose I ought to obtain one. It’s a plan for future income. The attached photo could be enlarged, mass produced and sold to scare mice out of the pantry and keep skunks out of the barn.

As we go through life, I believe the biggest danger is taking ourselves too seriously. There is a time and place to be serious, of course, but being too easily offended and angered is a big key to nowhere.

For the mainstream media, however, those persons who dispute everything seem to be a fertile ground for day after day of reporting.

The truth will keep us free.

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