According to the morning editorial, "Information Action Critical," the Intelligencer is fighting the good fight over access to information:
Many newspaper journalists will have no trouble believing allegations Murray Energy Corp. is making in a lawsuit against the federal government. Much the same thing - and worse - happens to us all the time.
It "happens to us all the time." How about an example? ("For instance . . .") Just one example would suffice.
As explained in a story on today's region page, Murray is suing the Department of the Interior and the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement. The company alleges it sought information from the agencies regarding a new rule that will affect coal mines adversely.
Murray contends the two agencies "have completely ignored" its requests for documents.
Did the editorial check with the Department of the Interior? Why should we believe Murray Energy's PR release? Doesn't an editorial writer have an ethical obligation to check? And here's the money quote:
Without access to both public documents and meetings of public bodies, our form of government is doomed to failure. That seems obvious.
What hypocrisy. Maybe the Intelligencer will someday explain why it chose not to be part of a suit brought by national newspapers, the Charleston papers, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting's against the judge's earlier gag order in the Blankenship trial. As Hoppy Kercheval explained on Monday:
Judge Berger started into this trial months ago with an excessive amount of secrecy, issuing a sweeping gag order prohibiting not only the lawyers involved, but also family members of the UBB victims from talking with the press. She also sealed all documents filed in the case.
However, a federal appeals court tossed out the judge’s order. The court said it appreciated Judge Berger’s “sincere and forthright proactive effort” to ensure a fair trial, but added, “The public enjoys a qualified right to access to criminal trials, pretrial proceedings, and all documents submitted in the course of a trial.”
And yet it continues with the jury selection process -- here's Ken Ward, Jr. earlier today:
Jury selection resumed for a fourth day this morning in the criminal trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.
Media representatives, including a growing number of national outlets, were again barred from the courtroom.
Why aren't the local "newspapers" screaming about access to the trial proceedings? (For that matter, why aren't the "newspapers" covering the most important West Virginia trial in recent memory?) Today's editorial and their lack of involvement and coverage in the Blankenship trial make the answer very clear. Despite wrapping themselves in the flag of public access, the citizens of West Virginia be damned -- coal owners and their interests are the only thing that counts.
The editorial concludes:
Because we in the press represent you, the public, we fight limits on access to government documents regularly and firmly. It concerns us - and should worry you - that more than two centuries after our nation's ongoing experiment in liberty was launched, the battle over freedom of information continues.
The Intelligencer claims they are fighting for the people's right to information. What bullshit.