McClatchy Washington bureau chief James Asher says his organization won’t attend a planned meeting between news organizations and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The Department of Justice is reaching out to news organizations to discuss its guidelines for seeking phone and email records from journalists.
“They don’t help us inform the public,” Asher said of off-the-record meetings in a phone interview with Poynter. “This one seems designed mostly to make a public relations point and not a substantive one. If the government wants to justify its pursuit of journalists, they ought to do it in public.”
Other news organizations have also declined. (The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone is keeping a running tally of who’s in and who’s out.)
“It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general,” Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson told The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone. “Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department’s handling of leak investigations at this time.”
AP spokesperson Erin Madigan White told Calderone, “If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter.” HuffPost D.C. bureau chief Ryan Grim also said he would decline, as did Reuters spokesperson Barb Burg.
And in a post Thursday morning, CNN said it will “decline the invitation for an off-the-record meeting.”
A CNN spokesperson says if the meeting with the attorney general is on the record, CNN would plan to participate.
CBS News won’t participate, spokesperson Sonya McNair tells Richard Prince. Univision and the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service told Prince they weren’t invited.
The Washington Post will attend, Erik Wemple reports: “I am going to this meeting in order to represent our interests as journalists and to raise our concerns,” Executive Editor Marty Baron tells him. “I’ll also listen to what the Attorney General has to say. I trust that our journalists will report on this as vigorously as they would any other subject.”
Politico Editor-in-Chief John Harris will also attend: “I feel anyone–whether an official or ordinary reader–should be able to have an unguarded conversation with someone in a position of accountability for a news organization when there is good reason,” Harris told his organization’s media reporter Dylan Byers. “Although the circumstances of this meeting have drawn wide notice, I do not see them as falling outside the usual practices I follow as editor.”
ABC News told Calderone it’s going.
Politico’s Mike Allen broke the news of the meeting in a report that quoted an unnamed Justice Department official saying that during the meetings “the Attorney General will engage with a diverse and representative group of news media organizations, including print, wires, radio, television, online media and news and trade associations. Further discussions will include news media executives and general counsels as well as government experts in intelligence and investigative agencies.”
This whole mess, it bears pointing out, began when the Justice Department investigated officials who leaked information anonymously.