Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » Why should you care about a free press?


Our editorial board's opinion was a little slow posting Sunday morning, but I hope you take the time to read it while you're reading Gabe Semenza's analysis of the Victoria District Attorney's contested records.

We want to keep journalists out of the courtroom precisely because we want them focused on covering the newsmakers. It's awkward at best to have a journalist receive a subpoena while he's in the middle of researching documents he received from that same prosecutor after a nine-month court struggle.

We value highly the independence of a free press. Already, we've had critics of the DA contacting us fearful that he might be trying to get information about them. We've told them we have no reason to think his investigation extends to those posting comments online, but the secrecy surrounding grand jury proceedings is intimidating. We will continue to fight to stay out of the story and to cover it fairly, completely and accurately.

One reader of my previous post contends the Advocate lost all credibility because our lawyer presented no evidence during Friday's hearing on our motion to quash Gabe's subpoena. I'm no lawyer, but I thought we had plenty of evidence listed in our motion, which I've attached here for your reading pleasure. We could have put Gabe on the stand to better make the legal case, but that's precisely what we wanted to avoid. Without a shield law, journalists are at a decided legal disadvantage in these situations.

Another reader posted that the DA can't make his case by just reading the paper. True enough, but why should he be able to make it by getting secondhand information from a journalist? He has plenty of prosecutorial power to get direct evidence without compelling a journalist to testify in secret proceedings about what others told him in the course of his reporting. Gabe didn't witness a murder. He was doing his job as a reporter.

That job should matter to everyone who loves our freedoms. From everything we hear, there's much more to the story yet to be reported.