My friend Corey Pein
has a piece in this month's Columbia Journalism Review
that has just infuriated me. Courts are making journalists pay to attend trials, spurred on by the costs of dealing with high profile trials like the upcoming Michael Jackson trial:
So why did the press agree to pay? Well, not everyone did. The deal was brokered by two people who wouldn’t talk on the record — Steve Loeper, the senior administrative editor of The Associated Press’s Los Angeles bureau, and Nina Zacuto, an NBC producer. And reporters who arrived after the deal was struck were asked to play by the consortium’s rules. It works like this: The national press gets billed by a private “pool coordinator,” also hired by the consortium. No breakdown of the county’s fee appears on the invoice. Broadcast pays 70 percent of the bill, print pays 30 percent, and local outlets pay nothing. Print outlets would pay about $8,000 over the course of the trial, which is expected to last four months. For some papers, that’s a lot of money.
Okay, I totally understand asking people to pitch in for the costs of hauling their recording equipment around on public property. But 30% for print journalists? That's totally outrageous. It's a public trial! That's a fundamental right they're paying for! It's my right as an American to walk into any trial, sit down, take notes, and walk out and tell people about it however I damn well please.. I shouldn't have to pay for that right. Whether I'm a blogger, a curious citizen, or a Washington Post writer, you can't make me pay for that right. The AP ought to be ashamed of itself.