I’ve read comments in other blogs, suggesting that journalists’ reaction to Proclamation 1017 has been, well, an overreaction. The fact that we continue to publish or air the stories we want to publish or air has been used as an argument, sometimes against the pretensions of a still all-too-freewheeling media.
It doesn’t matter if the police are to be posted to the newsrooms, the argument goes, as long as journalists continue to do their work.
This is a grave misunderstanding of the dynamics of a newsroom, and of human nature itself. Worse, it mistakes the present lack of effect for the total absence of risk. The truth is, a good newsroom is marked by freewheeling discussions about what constitutes the day’s news. Some of the best stories are the result of editors and reporters and producers and cameramen thinking out of the box. The presence of policemen in a newsroom may throw everyone involved in putting the news out for a loop.
The truly independent will make sport of police censors who won’t know the difference between, say, background and deep background (the prospect will energize many). But police presence may also make the less than fully independent (those who depend on government or government-endorsed ads or government regulatory caprice, for example) hold their fire.
Besides, media outrage in the last few days was a make-or-break matter. If after the raid on the Daily Tribune, the media had not been heard from, we can be sure the timetable for police presence in the newsrooms would have accelerated. In other words, journalists needed to make noise in the wake of Proclamation 1017, otherwise the resulting silence would have been ear-splitting.