U.S. Media’s Legal Standing May Be on ‘Shaky Ground’ Given How U.S. Supreme Court Now Views the Press — Study Co-Author

We know the immediate former United States president’s characterizations of the press. We may have a good idea of U.S. Congress’ as well. But what about the other branch of the U.S. federal government, the U.S. Supreme Court?

RonNell Andersen Jones and Sonja R. West have studied the court’s writings going back to 1784 to understand that.

The professors found that given the court’s recent opinions of the news media, the press’ legal standing may be on “shaky ground,” Jones told the audience at “Free Speech in the 21st Century,” an international freedom-of-speech conference held virtually July 3–4, 2020.

The U.S. Supreme Court building (photo credit: Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

As it is in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, confidence in the media is also “waning” in the Supreme Court, Jones said.

Jones and West are from the University of Utah and University of Georgia colleges of law, respectively. They divided all references by the court to the press into categories or “frames” of characterization. Then, they coded whether it was depicting that frame positively, negatively, or neutrally, Jones explained while giving a slideshow titled “United States Supreme Court characterizations of the press,” a presentation of the academics’ study. Jones and West mapped their data featuring the most and least friendly justices and their ideology and attitudes toward the press.

The New York Times reports on the Pentagon Papers. (photo credit: Real News Network)

Their mapping also captured positive terminology regarding the press — references like it being a check on the powerful, as a “watchdog,” that creates accountability and helps the public make decisions. The professors’ mapping also showed that the court spoke positively of the press during the media’s “glory days,” when it reported on the Pentagon Papers and there was a view of “heroism within journalism,” Jones said.

While the court is not saying the press is “bad for democracy” — at least not yet — the court is not lauding the media like it once did, Jones said.

Then there was “a wave of constitutional jurisprudence … known as originalism” that conservatives on the court abide by “to this day,” Jones said. But they haven’t abode by that philosophy when it comes to press freedom, Jones said. This means that the court has shown huge recent interest in the intent of the framers in constitutional areas like gun rights or police searches. But, “in these recent time periods where we might expect a lot of reference to the framers, we are not seeing originalist references to the intent of the framers on questions related to the press,” Jones said.

Prof. RonNell Andersen Jones (photo credit: University of Utah)

The court’s support of the press has “decreased” and “starkly so,” Jones said.

When the court speaks in certain “framings” — particularly the “trustworthiness frame” and the “impact-on-people frame” — it spells “bad news for the media,” Jones said.

The press has been framed by the court “as having an impact on people,” Jones said.

In the past, “negative references (by the court) were tempered by neutral ones,” Jones said.

The court isn’t doing such tempering currently for the “impact-on-people frame,” Jones said.

“They used to say some neutral things and some negative things, and now say almost exclusively negative things,” Jones said.

“The benefit of the doubt (from the court), basically, is essentially gone,” Jones said.

Jones noted that in the “glory days” of the press, there was a “much more mixed bag on tone” from the court. While previous courts had a “mix” of tones — “sometimes depicting the press as being unethical, dishonest, or inaccurate, but other times depicting it as being ethical, honest, and accurate” — the courts with William Rehnquist and John Roberts as the chief justices, when they employ this frame, are more exclusively using the negative tone, Jones said.

Prof. Sonja R. West (photo credit: University of Georgia)

“They don’t characterize the press much at all, but when they do speak to us about its trustworthiness, it is in the negative,” Jones said.

Findings from the public opinion pollster Gallup have revealed a “similar downward trend” of a lack of trust in the “institution” of the media, Jones said.

The results “might offer some important insights,” Jones said.

“The trends in this space are quite clear,” Jones said, saying that while some may believe the Supreme Court to be the last savior of the press, “they may find that their hopes are displaced,” Jones said.

Jones and West, each former journalists and Supreme Court clerks, are “bearers of bad news” given what they have learned in their “deep dive,” Jones said.

After taking a question from law professor Jurij Toplak, who moderated Jones’ presentation, Jones said there has been a “more general shift in the way we speak about the press and characterize the press.”

Jones said she was one of a “very small” number of scholars researching media law and press freedom issues. “He-who-won’t-be-named on this panel (former President Donald Trump) shifted all of that,” Jones said, noting he wrought a shift from more of a respect for “democratic institutions” like the press.

Prof. Jurij Toplak (photo credit: Jurij Toplak)

A change in the presidency in November to “somebody who flouted press norms instead of annihilated them” could change the public attitude toward the media, Jones said.

***

Gavin Phillipson of Bristol University asked Jones if Trump’s executive order targeting critical protections for online platforms given under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was “playing to his base.” Jones said Trump has been “conveying to his base a particular set of values” and believes he has “victim status.”

“My view is that the president’s Section 230 reform proposals are largely designed to signal to his followers that he feels victimized by certain social media companies and intends to fight back,” Jones said.

She further asked if Trump was “trying to do something symbolic” and “PR theatrics.”

But it unintentionally does something else — the bottom line. “The point,” Jones said, “is it spurs conversations.”

“Free Speech in the 21st Century” featured talks from academics on the subject. (photo credit: Jurij Toplak)

“I have been invited to three conversations in the past month for section 230,” Jones said before saying that she has gotten media calls and invitations to write op-eds on the subject.

The order “skews conversations to force us to talk,” Jones said. “I do think it has created a moment, which is important.” “Free Speech in the 21st Century” was organized by Alma Mater Europaea and the International Association of International Law. The event overall was also moderated by Toplak, a law professor at AME and University of Maribor in Slovenia.

I’m Self-Employed

I was a staff writer for a newspaper but had been doing side work in communications for five years. It built up to where it could be full-time work. Thus, things came to a head: I could keep doing the newspaper job or I could enjoy self-employment.

I chose self-employment.

And I’m glad to say that I have actually been able to help with really great things. (And I’ve rejected doing publicity for a company that feeds war and for a public figure who wanted me to publicize a frivolous lawsuit. I won’t abet things that are harmful.)

… if you can do it without abetting things that are harmful.

Since going out on my own and in doing the side work that enabled that opportunity, I have publicized Sony Pictures Television, Silicon Valley companies, a golf Instagram influencer, and the world’s leading advocate for a democratic, non-nuclear Iran, and I’ve done content marketing for Microsoft.

I have written for Vuukle, which is responsible for the option to click on emojis at the end of articles. (Vuukle is contracted with more than 400 publications to provide those emojis.) I’ve also covered a board trustee who, “by all accounts,” violated law for a check she cut, ghostwritten pieces about social issues like racial inequality and women’s rights in the Middle East, and copyedited for a tech startup. I was also able to write a letter to the European Human Rights Commission about press freedom.

Additionally, I have been able to promote a local organization that has built an affordable housing complex, an addiction recovery event, a boxing non-profit that helps youth, an initiative to help the still-innocent vote, the first transgender candidate for mayor in Utah history, a man who opposed the GOP nomination of Donald Trump for president at the 2016 Republican National Convention and was the plaintiff in the lawsuit that unbound national delegates under state law, a mass resignation from the Latter-day Saint church, a Nashville singer, a book warning of violence following a presidential election, an op-ed about a scientific/tech finding, a conference about free speech, a law firm that fights for consumers, a book about a man who developed bipolar disorder while arguably wrongly incarcerated, a small business enabling flutes to be played in wind for the first time in history, that is being trademark bullied, an artist who started a magazine promoting women artists, and a film at the Toronto Film Festival.

And I’m happier. Even being able to be on my own sleep schedule is a major benefit.

I Am Now a Book Author, of ”Star Wars’ Is Still Intact: Re-finding Yourself in the Age of Trump’

What if there is a particular day when you fall out of faith?
There was at least that for me: July 12, 2015.
I didn’t expect that that would launch an existential crisis, though the departure of my wife and rejection by family didn’t help.
But I had to get out of a cult, and that came during an extraordinary cultural time in the United States. “Star Wars” returned to the big screen and Donald Trump was elected president, resulting in a public questioning of institutions.
Along the way came insights, narratives, or thoughts I had that I may not have thought otherwise.

Here’s the link for the publisher.

Here’s the link for Amazon.

Here’s the link for Apple.

Image result for ‘Star Wars’ Is Still Intact: Re-Finding Yourself in the Age of Trump

(Thought Catalog)

Robert Mueller Report: The Department of Justice Broke Law in Reply to Freedom of Information Act Request of Report— and This Happens in Federal Government to No Consequence, Open Government Expert Says

A man whose career is to promote government transparency confirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice violated federal public-information law when it failed to respond to a media outlet’s Freedom of Information Act for the report of special counsel Robert Mueller within the time frame the statute requires. Federal government agencies break the timeliness law often, but “neither agencies nor courts give a f — -,” said Sai (the only reported name), owner of Fiat Fiendum, which seeks more government transparency through efforts like first-release FOIA disclosures.

“Imagine if the government actually obeyed its own laws,” Sai said when asked for verification that the Justice Department Office of Information Policy broke 5 U.S. Code § 552(a)(6)(E)(ii)(I) after Law & Transparency studied it along with 5 U.S.C. § 552 in general.

The particular provision of law mentioned says that government agencies must notify a person requesting public information “within 10 days after the date of the request.” But Douglas Hibbard’s OIP responded to the San Francisco Public Press’ request for the report of the Mueller investigation 13 days after the date of the Press’ request (on April 4 after a March 22 request).

5 U.S.C. § 552 concerns “public information; agency rules, opinions, orders, records, and proceedings,” according to the title of the law.

“Simple answer: yeah they broke the law,” Sai wrote. “The government gets to do that without consequences; you don’t.”

The American Civil Liberties Union did not return a request for comment.

“A tiny handful of agencies” will not treat deadline statutes like the one in the particular provision of law mentioned wildly differently as mandated — “that seem to believe that ‘10 days’ and ‘20 days’ do mean ‘days’ and not ‘months,’” Sai said.

Those are “mainly the ones whose FOIA ‘department’ is the in-house (lawyer’s) part-time job,” he wrote.

“Also, cities like (San Francisco) treat it legitimately seriously, and due respect to them,” Sai said. “But that’s very much the exception, not the rule.”

Aside from a pattern and practice injunction, “there’s no remedy” for the Justice Department’s transgression, Sai said. A pattern and practice injunction is a distinctive court order that makes a party have to do keep from doing a particular thing, citing a systematic practice of it previously.

But “no court” will grant that, Sai wrote.

“They universally view the time periods in the statute as a wildly aspirational joke that Congress made when writing the law so … they’re not going to enforce it,” he said.

“I don’t know of any FOIA case that has treated any deadline in the statute as anything but a standing issue or a technicality for fees and costs award basis,” Sai added. “They don’t even give it lip service, textualism be damned.”

“There’s nothing you can do” about agencies nor courts caring for “timeliness violations,” “except treat it as the day you get to file your lawsuit,” Sai wrote.

The Mueller investigation looked into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct justice, according to The Washington Post. The “basic function of the Freedom of Information Act is to ensure informed citizens, vital to the functioning of a democratic society,” according to the same Justice Department.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who is over the Justice Department, is anticipated to put out a redacted Mueller report to Congress and the public on Thursday morning, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, according to CNN.

Department of Justice Puts Off Responding to FOIA Requests of the Mueller Investigation Report, Claiming Law is Behind Them (link to document)

In this letter, the U.S. Department of Justice says they are delaying responding to Freedom of Information Act requests of the report of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.


The United States Department of Justice has delayed responding to Freedom of Information Act requests of the report of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The DoJ appears to have done this as allowed by federal law on public information.

“We will need to extend the time limit to respond to your request beyond the 10 additional days provided by the statute,” reads a DoJ letter signed by DoJ Chief of Initial Request Staff Douglas Hibbard and addressed to me. A subsection of the law says that “if agency (dealing with a FOIA request) has determined that unusual circumstances apply … a failure … is excused for an additional 10 days.”

The request, reads the letter, fits the criteria of “unusual circumstances” as defined in another subsection of the law, 5 U.S.C. 552, which was assessed by me as it applies to the letter. Those circumstances, the DoJ says, are that the request “requires a search in another office, consultations with other department components or another agency, and/or involves a voluminous amount of material.”

The report was the result of an investigation led by Mueller that concerned Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election and if U.S. President Donald Trump sought to obstruct justice. The “basic function of the Freedom of Information Act is to ensure informed citizens, vital to the functioning of a democratic society,” according to the same DoJ.

The Mueller report is reportedly nearly 400 pages.

The DoJ is “processing other requests seeking records similar to those you have requested,” the DoJ wrote in the letter.

The letter appears to be a form letter sent to at least one other media outlet, the San Francisco Public Press.

“At this time we have assigned your request to the complex track,” the letter reads. A subsection of the law says that “each agency (dealing with a FOIA request) shall … provide to each person making a request the tracking number assigned to the request.”

“We use multiple tracks to process requests,” the letter reads. “The time needed to complete our work on your request will necessarily depend on a variety of factors, including the complexity of our records search, the volume and complexity of any material located, and the order of receipt of your request.”

I sent the request on March 25 and got its letter April 2. Press Senior Editor Michael Winter sent his request on March 22, he wrote, and got his letter April 4.

Regarding a possible cost of the report, “Any decision with regard to the application of fees will be made only after we determine whether fees will be implicated for this request,” the letter read.

The DoJ is led by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who provided a four-page letter summary of the report on March 24 to congressional committee leaders.

Along with mine and the Press’, the DOJ has granted processing of other requests “on an expedited basis.” The DOJ is granting the expedition at least for me and the Press’ because of the other requests for “similar” documents, the letter read. A subsection of the law says that “each agency (dealing with a FOIA request) shall promulgate regulations … providing for expedited processing of requests for records.”

I got carpal tunnel since I did that much speak-truth-to-power journalism

brace

I had to wear the brace pictured because I got carpal tunnel, as the doctor said, in an effort to do speak-truth-to-power journalism (samples below).

Also, I did that work mostly for free.

Then, I had to leave my apartment early.

I am not asking even for a livable wage, but just a stipend (link: https://www.gofundme.com/keep-on-with-truth-to-power-stipend).

Hopefully, this is a reasonable request because I am not simply asking for money, but for even recompense for hundreds of hours of research, interviews, writing and past-midnight (and overnight) labor.

Thank you,

Rhett

Stories that won awards for last year:
What do town halls in the wake of Trump say about Utah politicians?”: I attended many functions throughout Utah that were held shortly after the election, besides researching for the most-appropriate links.
Heard of a ‘dry Mormon?’ Turns out, there are quite a few dry Mormon … transhumanists: I held a conference call with the board of the organization and traveled to attend their meetings.


The Inquisitr profile: Includes stories on the rise of Democratic candidates in Utah, a breaking report of the Mormon church ending its home teaching program and aggregates of Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump.
portfolio: Includes descriptions and links to nine stories that got awards from the Society of Professional Journalists or Religion Newswriters Association.
Daily Herald profile: Includes a report of the county attorney’s decision on rape by a Mormon leader and another about a case about a filmed assisted suicide which hearing was covered by CBS.

I worked on a film that showed in every theater in the largest movie chain in Utah

Image result for before your time movie

“Before Your Time” played in every Megaplex theater in Utah.

Megaplex Theatres is the largest movie theater chain in the state.

I am grateful to have been involved in its creation, as a screenwriter, production assistant, grip and extra, and in media outreach.

  •  After the loss of their mother, 17-year-old Dylan, his two sisters, and father are forced to move back to the small town where their parents met and grew up. While getting back on their feet, the family stays with their eccentric Aunt Norah and tries to adjust to a new life. They meet a quirky neighborhood kid, Pete, who convinces them to embark on a bucket list-type adventure inspired by a list found in their Dad’s high school storage boxes. The task is not as easy as it seems and ultimately teaches everyone about managing grief, moving forward, and the importance of family.
  •  Production assistant for several scenes
  •  Helped with setup many times, including during a storm
  •  Was a grip until nearly midnight
  •  Got three news stories placed
  •  Internal communication to actors to ensure their attendance for scenes

Here’s my IMDb profile.

‘Gov. Herbert has created his own rock and hard place’ (in USA TODAY)

I wrote the following op-ed and it was picked up by USA TODAY:

USA TODAY

Gov. Gary Herbert used the term “let us reason together” when suggesting that the outdoor retailer shows were in the wrong in leaving over Herbert and Utah politicians’ land grab efforts.

One must wonder if he realized that Utahns might find it reasonable for the shows to leave given that the land grab efforts, in one case, would have cost $14 million (a lawsuit); in another, was not considerate enough of tribal concerns (the Public Lands Initiative); and in a third, were trying to undo something that had already been done (a resolution to President Trump — from a different level of government — to rescind former President Obama’s Bears Ears designation) when that act of undoing (reversing national monument designations) has never even been done before.

Or at the least, Herbert realized that Utahns would frown on a major economic driver leaving town, one that brought 40,000 visitors and $45 million to the state each year.

The cards against him, Herbert did what tyrants have done: Deploy religious rhetoric to manipulate deep convictions for political gain. “Let us reason together” comes from Isaiah 1 of the Judeo-Christian world and a form of that phrase is found in Mormon scripture (D&C 50). Surely, he must have known that even if Utahns generally weren’t going to absolutely hammer him, the highest-profile and most influential of business leaders would.

This must certainly include Scott Anderson, the Zions Bank CEO, so powerful in Utah that he may as well be another powerful politician. But Anderson is also a devout Latter-day Saint — those close to him have said that he will leave his Zions post only after he is assigned as an LDS mission president. Anderson runs a bank that has had church association.

Gary Herbert trying to manipulate the Scott Andersons. Boy. I’d say that’s sad for Herbert, except in his policy approach and communications on this affair, he created his own rock and hard place.

Rhett Wilkinson lives in Centerville. He was a staffer on Herbert’s 2012 re-election campaign and interned in the governor’s communications office.

I heard them on NPR. Then I realized: I’d interviewed all of them myself.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CeKFELjWwAEByzK.jpg

This guy, a top business executive in America, joined a U.S. senator and former CIA director as stakeholders I have interviewed in the past and now have enjoyed attention on National Public Radio or an affiliate. (Traeger Grills)

A whole lot has been written about Jeremy Andrus since the turn of the calendar year, what with his success leading Traeger Grills after building Skullcandy. (Read: for example, he was named the Utah Business CEO of the Year after being featured in Forbes.)

I’ll humbly say that I was one of the first to report on his leadership of the innovative grill company, when its global headquarters were established in one of the cities that I covered as a reporter for a Salt Lake City-based newspaper.

That was just the beginning in terms of folks I have interviewed who have recently rode the biggest airwaves.

Andrus was referenced last week in a story by the National Public Radio affiliate of Salt Lake. I also enjoyed hearing on NPR last week from Leon Panetta and Steve Daines. Panetta is the former is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Daines is a U.S. senator. It was awesome for me to realize that I had interviewed all three just more than a year apart in my journalism career.

I would share the Panetta and Daines stories, but they are archived only in print. But here’s the digital Andrus story:

Company led by former Skullcandy CEO moves global headquarters to Sugar House

By Rhett Wilkinson

Traeger Pellet Grills is about creativity. So is Sugar House.

But the commonality is merely one reason why the counter-culture city is a “great place” for the innovative grill company to relocate its global headquarters, a Treager executive said.

“Traeger is an outdoor cooking brand, and outdoor cooking, by nature, is about creativity and in particular, the outdoors,” Vice President of Marketing Sean Laughlin said. “We felt that Sugar House is a great place for us to be located based upon the diversity, the creativity, and the value placed in outdoor spaces that this neighborhood provides.”

The company made the move from Portland this week into a 28,000-square foot location in the 1215 Wilmington Building, where more than 100 employees will be based, according to a press release.

The decision-maker was Jeremy Andrus, Traeger CEO and former top man at Skullcandy.

“We’re thrilled to be relocating our company’s global headquarters from Oregon to the great state of Utah,” Andrus said. “We’re looking forward to building another great brand right here at home and to being a contributing member of the community. We’ve been hard at work building a new, unique office in Sugar House that will reflect the DNA of our brand and inspire our team and our customers alike. The design concept connects people to our product with elements of reclaimed wood from both of our homes – Oregon and now Utah – fire, steel, and sophisticated electronics.”

Read more at ValleyJournals.com.