SPJ national update II: Army private says he is New Republic's writer in Baghdad; and House renews funding for public broadcasting. The New Republic's anonymous "Baghdad Diarist" identified himself July 26 as Scott Thomas Beauchamp, an Army private in Iraq, and disputed as "maddening" the accusations that he invented his accounts of cruelty by American soldiers. Beauchamp is married to a New Republic staffer, and that is "part of the reason why we found him to be a credible writer," said the magazine's editor, Franklin Foer, who added that Beauchamp has put himself in jeopardy and "lost his lifeline to the rest of the world" because the military has taken away his laptop, cellphone and e-mail privileges. The Weekly Standard and conservative bloggers challenged Beauchamp's account of soldiers mocking a woman disfigured by an injury, getting their kicks by running over dogs with Bradley Fighting Vehicles and playing with Iraqi children's skulls taken from a mass grave. More here and here. ... The House rejected, 357-72, President Bush's plan to eliminate the $420 million federal subsidy for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The outcome was never in doubt, unlike two years ago when Republicans tried but failed to slash public broadcasting subsidies. The move to kill the subsidies, which make up about 15 percent of the CPB budget, was launched by Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. More here.
SPJ national update III: Cowards and knaves, both sides of the aisle; and some in Congress pushing to reinstate Fairness Doctrine. A brawl over presidential pardons punctured the Senate ambience on the night of July 19, but Republicans and Democrats erased the evidence before the sun rose July 20. Democrats forced a vote on a nonbinding measure to instruct President Bush not to pardon former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. But the 47-49 vote won't be found in the daily record of congressional proceedings, because senators agreed less than an hour later to undo their vote and pretend it never happened. More here. ... In 1987 the FCC stopped requiring broadcasters to air contrasting views on controversial issues, a policy known as the Fairness Doctrine. The move is widely credited with triggering the explosive growth of political talk radio. Now, after conservative talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage helped torpedo a major immigration bill, the idea arises to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. That has unleashed an armada of opposition, with broadcasters joining Republicans in the fight. More here and here.
SPJ national update IV: What's a couple of fleeting profanities between friends?; and congressman to appeal taped-call case to Supreme Court. The Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill July 19 that would give the FCC the authority to regulate "fleeting profanities." The bill, sponsored by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., is intended to reverse a recent federal appeals court ruling that challenged the FCC's indecency regime. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that the FCC had not justified why it had changed long-standing policy in ruling that a fleeting profanity was indecent. The ruling was a victory for broadcasters, who had challenged the commission's March 2006 indecency fines. More here. ... Rep. Jim McDermott says he will ask the Supreme Court to decide whether he had a right to disclose contents of an illegally taped telephone call involving House Republican leaders a decade ago. A federal appeals court ruled against McDermott in May, saying the Washington state Democrat should not have given reporters access to the taped telephone call. McDermott called the ruling an infringement of his First Amendment rights. More here.
SPJ national update V: Court rejects ACLU challenge to wiretap program; and N.C. appeals court sides with newspapers in open-records fight. In a defeat for journalists, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected an ACLU challenge to the Bush administration's warrantless wiretaps. The court vacated a lower court finding that the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program, which monitors phone calls inside the U.S. from parties outside the country, was illegal. The administration argues that the program is gathering foreign, not domestic, intelligence and is a necessary weapon in the war on terror. More here. ... And in a public-records victory, a Crolina state Court of Appeals on July 3 reversed part of a trial court ruling that allowed Columbus County officials to withhold a letter sought by the twice-weekly News-Reporter and weekly Tabor-Loris Tribune. A three-judge panel unanimously ruled that governments can't simply file a document in a personnel file and call it protected from the state's public-records law. The papers, which overlap in coverage area, filed a lawsuit in 2005 to see a letter related to hiring a new medical director for the county, which borders South Carolina in southeastern North Carolina. More here. Also on open records, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled May 25 that local law enforcement is not exempt from the state's open-records law, overturning a lower court ruling that would have allowed many files to be kept from public view. The ruling was a win for The Jackson Sun and a significant ruling in the eyes of many press and open-government advocates. More here.
SPJ national update VI: Northwestern faculty rip Medill School of Journalism. The faculty senate at Northwestern University has formally accused NU's administration of abolishing democracy at the Medill School of Journalism. A resolution adopted unanimously June 6 by the General Faculty Committee says it found NU's "suspension of faculty governance [at Medill] to be unacceptable and in violation of the University's Statutes." The resolution predicts "curricular changes that are ill considered ... the demoralization and enmity of the faculty ... damage to the national reputation of the School ... the loss of and the inability to hire faculty who believe that the faculty's role in governance is important for students, faculty and the public." The backdrop to the resolution is a series of internal and external audits in recent years that judged Medill -- which enjoys seeing itself as a journalism school without equal -- as an academic basket case. More here.