Leading investigative journalists warn of constricted press freedoms under Obama Administration
“The Obama administration is trying to narrow the playing field for reporters,” said New York Times reporter James Risen at the
2014 Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium in Berkeley,
The theme of this year’s conference was: “Under Attack:
Reporters and Their Sources.”
Risen, who faces the threat of jail time for refusing to turn
over information about a confidential source, was one of
the featured speakers. He is winner of the 2006 Pulitzer
Prize for National Reporting and the Goldsmith Prize for
“A Rip Van Winkle today would be shocked with what we accept in society and what we think of as normal,” Risen told the audience of several hundred investigative journalists and Berkeley journalism graduate students. He said that there’s been a “fundamental change in society” since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and that Americans have given up civil liberties and press freedoms “slowly and incrementally.”
“We’ve been too accepting of rules and mores of, first, the Bush administration and, now, the Obama administration. We have to stand up and begin to fight back…we need to think about how to challenge the government in the way we’re supposed to challenge the government.”
[quote]“[The Obama administration] want[s] to create an interstate highway for reporting in which there are police all along telling you to stay on that highway. As long as we accept this interstate highway of reporting, we are enabling and complicit in what’s happening to society and the press,” said Risen.[/quote]
Lowell Bergman, Director of the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism, echoed the warnings calling these “sad times” and telling the audience that reporters, “have to take some more direct action, public action,” to “raise the profile of what the government is doing or attempting to do.”
The panel of journalists that I moderated was entitled, “The Third Rail: Stories that We’re Not Supposed to Tell.” It featured CNN correspondent Sara Ganim who broke the Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno Penn State sex scandal story; James Pomfret, a senior correspondent for Reuters who reports in the restrictive environment of China and Hong Kong; documentary filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal whose documentary, “Citizen Koch,” was abandoned by PBS due to what they believe was financial influence; and Paul Beinart, associate professor of journalism and political science at City College of New York for whom the third rail is stories critical of the pro-Israel agenda.
ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross, who has won multiple national awards, moderated a panel entitled, “Truth and Consequences,” featuring panelists who described the dangers they face and harassment campaigns launched against them as a result of their reporting.
This was the eighth annual Logan Symposium. Other journalists who spoke at the event included: Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an undercover journalist based in Africa who appeared in disguise so as not to compromise his future work; Julia Angwin, an award-winning investigative journalist at the independent ProPublica and author of the newly-published book Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance; Raney Aronson-Roth, Deputy Executive Producer for PBS’ Frontline, which has won all major broadcast journalism awards; David Barboza, a New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent based in China; Sandy Bergo, Executive Director of the Fund for Investigative Journalism; David Donald, the award winning Data Editor at the Center for Public Integrity; Richard Esposito, Senior Executive Producer of the NBC News Investigative Unit who has shared in Peabody and Pulitzer awards; David Fanning, Executive Producer of PBS Frontline; Jeff Gerth, a senior reporter for ProPublica, former investigative reporter for the New York Times and winner of two Pulitzer Prize awards; Janine Gibson, Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian US, which has won a range of awards including the Pultizer; Anabel Hernandez, an award-winning author and one of Mexico’s leading investigative journalists; Jennifer LaFleur, Senior Editor for Data Journalism at the Center for Investigative Reporting; Isaac Lee, President of News for Univision Communications; Micah Lee, a technology analyst for First Look Media; Dave Marash, an Emmy Award winning veteran of many news organizations; John Markoss, a senior correspondent for the science desk of the New York Times who has shared a Pulitzer prize for his reporting; Erin Siegal McIntyre, an award-winning author and reporter; T. Christian Miller, a ProPublica senior reporter and recipient of multiple major awards; Jason Mojica, global documentary producer and Editor-in-Chief of VICE News; Annie Murphy, a widely-published freelance journalist and independent producer; Megan O’Matz, an award-winning investigative reporter with the South Florida Sun Sentinal; Arun Rath, the new host of NPR’s All Things Considered on the weekends; Susanne Reber, Director of Digital Media for The Center for Investigative Reporting; Phil Rees, the Doha-based Executive Producer at Al Jazeera’s investigative department and winner of multiple awards; Gabriel Sherman, a contributing editor at New York Magazine who has published with multiple national publications; Lisa Song of InsideClimate News, who has shared a Pulitzer Prize for her work; Sarah Stillman, a staff writer for The New Yorker and recent winner of various national magazine journalism prizes; A.C. Thompson, a staff reporter and forensic journalist at ProPublica; and Megan Twohey, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and investigative reporter for Reuters based in New York.