Stop the Press!

Supreme Court

This is a case for the Supreme Court.

On Dec. 8, Samantha Hernandez, a reporter for the Door County Advocate in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., was covering an open meeting of the Gibraltar School Board when the board’s attorney asked her to turn off her tape recorder.

The attorney, Mary Gerbig, suggested the recorder be turned off “for purposes of open discussion.” Hernandez refused.

“I’d like to say that this is a public hearing, and I believe that I have a right to record it,” Hernandez said.

If Hernandez needed backing for her refusal to stop taping, she could point to a similar incident involving a reporter in Mississippi and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

In 2004, a U.S. marshal ordered Hattiesburg American reporter Antoinette Konz to erase her tapes while she was covering a speech by Scalia on, of all topics, the U.S. Constitution. Scalia, who barred TV cameras at his public appearances, later issued Konz an apology, a copy of which appears in the Newseum’s News History Gallery, along with Konz’s tape recorder and cassette tape. The apology reads in part:

… It has been my policy to refuse radio and television coverage of my public appearances. I do that for the same reason I decline personal interviews. … It has been the tradition of the American judiciary not to thrust themselves into the public eye, where they might come to be regarded as politicians seeking public favor. …

I abhor as much as any American the prospect of a law enforcement officer’s seizing a reporter’s notes or recording.… I have learned my lesson (at your expense), and shall certainly be more careful in the future. Indeed, in the future I will make it clear that recording for use of the print media is no problem at all.

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