By Whitney Evans | June 7th, 2012
Members of the press and freedom of information advocates spoke out Wednesday, June 6, against a proposed Department of Labor policy requiring credentialed media to use government-owned computers and software when reporting on embargoed DOL data.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called the policy into question during the hearing called by the House Committee for Government Oversight. President Obama said that his would be the most transparent administration to date, Issa said in his opening remarks, and this policy seems to counter that claim.
Currently, select media enter a secure room to receive pre-released economic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Employment and Training Administration a half hour to an hour before the public release, allowing them time to review and write-up information. They are then allowed to report the embargoed information using their own software.
*Update: Thanks to Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President and Bloomberg editor Steve Geimann for bringing the following to our attention in an email: ”A key aspect of the new policy is the use of government communication circuits, rather than proprietary lines installed, maintained and controlled by the media organizations.”
The new policy would require media to leave all equipment behind and use materials provided by the Department of Labor, including DOL-issued paper and writing utensils, with seating arrangements as the DOL sees necessary. Media would need to report using computers and software provided by the DOL, ostensibly preventing premature leaks of confidential information. However, this system would allow the government to see what reporters are writing as they write.
The Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press quoted Daniel Moss, executive editor for economy and international government at Bloomberg, as testifying: “Under the DOL proposal, the government would own and control the reporters’ notebook. This is an unheard of intrusion of government into one of most cherished freedoms.”
Representatives from press entities and freedom of information advocates spoke out against this move, including Lucy Dalglish, executive director of RCFP. Daglish provided testimony.
“The media takes government interference with its work product very seriously. So does the Constitution. In fact, the First Amendment obligates the government to allow journalists to operate independently from government control,” Dalglish said in her statement to the committee. “Requiring journalists to draft and publish stories using government-owned computers loaded with government-controlled software simply crosses a line the First Amendment clearly drew to separate the press from the government.” (Read her full testimony.)
According to The Associated Press, the media involved with the hearings said, “progress has been made,” but said little about the meetings with government officials. The hearing also looked into the DOL’s accuracy on reporting ‘green jobs.’
(Click here to see the DOL’s full proposal.)
Check out video of the hearing and testimonies, or read transcripts of individual testimonies from:
- Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
- Rob Doherty, General Manager of Reuters News (US)
- Daniel Moss, Executive Editor for economy and International Government, Bloomberg News
- Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Senior Fellow, The Manhattan Institute
- Dr. Keith Hall, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
John Galvin, Acting Commissioner U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Carl Fillichio, Senior Advisor for Communications and Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor
The Honorable Jane Oates Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
Correction [6/8/2012]: Daniel Moss was previously misidentified as “executive director of Bloomberg.”
Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated with a BA in Communications, with a print journalism emphasis, from Brigham Young University. Connect with her via email – email@example.com – or on twitter – @whitevs7.