Watching out for the Watchdogs

Rachel DePompa – bio | email  

I saw a survey once that showed journalists were the most hated profession in America, topping even lawyers. While I do understand there are journalists out there who sensationalize and go too far, I also still see the good in this profession. We are the watchdogs. We are the folks who keep track of government.  We hold people and public officials accountable.  We are the eyes and ears of citizens, often in places they can’t be. We record history.  

Quote on the wall at the Newseum

I had a chance this weekend to visit the Newseum in Washington, D.C.. I highly recommend it to everyone, especially the 9-11 exhibit. You must watch the video of the journalists who worked in New York City on that fateful day, it’s an amazing behind the scenes look at history. I do warn you… BRING TISSUES!  The museum also has a portion of the Berlin wall on display, a great tribute to sports journalism and there is even a 4-D movie and interactive area for the kids.  I also really enjoyed seeing all the Pulitzer prize-winning photos.  You’ll probably need to give yourself a few hours to tour the facility, because it’s five stories and filled to the brim!   

Since I’m writing about journalism, I wanted to give a shout-out to some fellow journalists who are protecting our rights and the rights of every citizen in the country. Two stories hit the wire today, that may not be the most interesting, but they are important to everyone seeking to uphold our first amendment rights.  

Charlottesville Document Fight: The Washington Post, Associated Press, Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Daily Progress are challenging a clerk of court in Charlottesville. The media outlets re-filed a motion today, asking for a court order with information related to the death of UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love be released. Now police have every right to get their search warrants sealed,  however the warrants were not sealed in the first place and were already obtained by the media.  And what is so strange in this case is that the actual order to have the records sealed was sealed with the documents. I’ve never seen that before and I’ve covered court case across Virginia for 12 years. The judge originally rejected the challenge on a technicality, but the media outlets have fixed the problem and re-filed.  

Photos Returned to JMU Student Paper: Even fledgling journalists should have a voice. A Commonwealth’s attorney in Rockingham County, Virginia recently raided the offices of a student run-newspaper, called The Breeze, on the JMU campus in Harrisonburg.  The prosecutor confiscated 900 pictures, taken by a photographer for the newspaper, from a riot at an off-campus party. This would be like the police showing up at your house and confiscating your personal pictures just because you may or may not have captured something of interest. Today we learned that a settlement has been reached. The paper has agreed to only hand-over 20 photos. Police and the Commonwealth’s attorney will reimburse the paper for $10,000 in legal fees.     

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