FREE PRESS -- "You dont see newspapers fighting to open court proceedings the way they used to, and people are starting to notice," reports Adam Liptak in the New York Times. And the main factor to blamethe dramatic slump in daily newspaper advertising incomeis at least as bad in California as anywhere else. But one paper says it's still fighting the good fight.
Thanks to The Press-Enterprise, a newspaper in Riverside, Calif.,
the press and the public have nearly an absolute constitutional right
to attend jury selection in criminal cases. In the 1980s, the paper
fought ferociously to establish that principle, taking two access cases to the Supreme Court.
News organizations used to consider those kinds of lawsuits a matter of civic responsibility.
The Press-Enterprise, the California paper that fought so hard to
make sure jury selection is public, is in rough shape these days. It is
so strapped that its quit distributing free copies of the paper to
staff members in the city room, said Mel Opotowsky, a former managing
editor of the paper and a founder of the California First Amendment Coalition.
Mr. Opotowsky added with pride that the paper continues to fight for
open courts. Alonzo Wickers IV, a lawyer for the paper at Davis Wright
Tremaine, confirmed that.
Weve probably handled six access
matters for them in the past 18 months, Mr. Wickers said. The
Press-Enterprise sees its role as not just reporting news but keeping
the powers that be in check.