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CBS Firing of Journalist Catherine Herridge, and Seizing of Her Documents, Poses a Dangerous Threat to Freedom of the Press

Curtis Houck : Feb 23, 2024  MRC Newsbusters

"She was pursuing stories that were unwelcomed by the Biden White House and many Democratic powerhouses, including the Hur report on Joe Biden's diminished mental capacity, the Biden corruption scandal and the Hunter Biden laptop." -Jonathan Turley, former CBS legal analyst

[Newsbusters.org] Writing Thursday morning for The Hill, Fox News contributor and George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley dropped a bombshell about this month's layoffs at CBS News; that the network seized the files of Catherine Herridge, who was sadly one of the correspondents let go and one of the only actual reporters in network news. (Screengrab image: CBS News)

Turley noted that, while it was shocking enough that she no longer had a job, the questions surrounding the choice to let her go (as part of wider layoffs at parent company Paramount Global) have exacerbated "after CBS officials took the unusual step of seizing her files, computers and records, including information on privileged sources."

He further alleged CBS "informed her that it would decide what, if anything, would be turned over to her", presumably including "confidential material from both her stints at Fox and CBS."

Our own Brent Bozell reacted in an X post to this crackdown on the free press:

Calling this "shocking," Turley explained "[j]ournalists are generally allowed to leave with their files" as per "the standard contract, including the one at CBS" so long as they can be made "available to the network" in the event of "future litigation."

"When sources accept confidentiality assurances, it is an understanding that rests with the reporter. It is a matter of trust that can take a long time to establish on a personal level between a reporter and a source," he continued with it especially being the case with Herridge given her beats on intelligence and law enforcement.

Thankfully, Turley said Herridge's former colleagues haven't scoffed at this move: "The position of CBS has alarmed many, including the union, as an attack on free press principles by one of the nation's most esteemed press organizations. I have spoken confidentially with current and former CBS employees who have stated that they could not recall the company ever taking such a step before."

He cited "[o]ne former CBS journalist" as having heard "many employees are confused why" she was caught up in the layoffs since she "broke news regularly and did a lot of original reporting."

How cute. To anyone with a pulse and able to spot liberal media bias, it's not at all surprising she got theaxegiven her decades of intrepid reporting that included staying on top of Biden family corruption twists and turns when it often felt like no one else at the "big three" of ABC, CBS, and NBC would.

"She continued to pursue these stories despite reports of pushback from CBS executives, including CBS News President Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews," he added.

Turley invoked another source who used to work at CBS to explain seizing her files (which would thus include stories she was working on at the time) wasn't commonplace:

A former CBS manager, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he had "never heard of anything like this." He attested to the fact that, in past departures, journalists took all of their files and office contents. Indeed, the company would box up everything from cups to post-its for departing reporters. He said the holding of the material was "outrageous" and clearly endangered confidential sources.

(....)

A source within the union, SAG-AFTRA, confirmed that it has raised this controversy with CBS and remains extremely concerned about the effect of this action on journalistic practices and source confidentiality. The union believes this is "very unusual" and goes far beyond this individual case. "It is a matter of principle," a union spokesperson added. "It is a matter of serious concern. We are considering all of our options."

Turley went on to lay out the implications of what seized files mean for the government's ongoing court case against Herridge as well as CBS, Herridge herself, and journalists writ large:

Reporters like Herridge have long served as the primary defenders of privileged sources. Indeed, Herridge is still in court defending confidentiality over a series of stories at Fox News in 2017, even at the risk of being held in contempt.

CBS is suggesting that it will allow unnamed individuals to rifle through Herridge's files to determine what will remain with the network and what will be returned to the reporter. That could fundamentally alter how reporters operate and how willing sources are to trust assurances that they will be protected.

In criminal cases involving privileged information, the government has an elaborate "filter team" system to wall off access to information under review. In the court system, judges use in camera and ex parte reviews to protect such information. Ironically, the media itself seems to take a more ad hoc approach. Indeed, CBS seems to have adopted a "Trust us, we're the media" approach. However, that could expose these files to the access of unnamed lawyers, tech staff and others who are conducting this inventory and analysis.

(....)

The union may have no choice but to go to court to force CBS to protect journalistic values, including a demand for an injunction to force the company to secure these files and bar review until a court has had a chance to consider these questions of confidential and proprietary claims to the files. Subscribe for free to Breaking Christian News here







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