Sunday, July 03, 2005

World-Herald Paves Way for Persecution

by Kyle Michaelis
Today, the Omaha World-Herald went ahead and revealed in a front-page story the name of the plaintiff in "ACLU Nebraska and John Doe v. the City of Plattsmouth," the local variant on a series of court cases nationwide challenging the constitutionality of displays of the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments on public property.

They'd been itching to pull the trigger on this one for some time, getting into quite the verbal and legal battle with the ACLU over their planned revealing of "John Doe's" true identity. The ACLU lawyers in the case claim to have faced incredible harassment from the public themselves and wanted to shield their client from such pressures, including potential death threats.

After the World-Herald's uncovering the identity of "John Doe", the ACLU sought a court injunction to prevent them from publishing this information, but the effort failed. Ever since, the ACLU has been a frequent target of pithy editorial comments for their supposedly hypocritical attempt to impugn the rights of a free press by fulfilling their duty as lawyers protecting their client.

At the time, the World-Herald promised they only wanted to serve the public interest - not endanger anyone - while questioning the ethics of anonymous lawsuits that seek to influence public policy. Well, obviously, as evidenced by today's story, it serves the public interest not only to know the plaintiff's name but also to see his picture and that of his license plate. Otherwise, why would the World-Herald run these photos?


The article also revealed that "John Doe" drives a Toyota, listed his employer, and described the make and location of his family's home in Plattsmouth. Tasteful. Very tasteful.

Poor man. For someone who claims to have already "had threats to firebomb my house, to have my son beaten" this has to seem like a contract on his and his family's lives. Is this really the treatment one deserves for standing up for something they belive in against the majority? Pretty damn despicable of the World-Herald if you ask me. Shame on writer John Ferak, photographer Jeff Bundy, and the whole damn outfit for showing such a complete lack of sensitivity.

Hopefully, the good people of Plattsmouth will show more concern and compassion, keeping this battle in the courts where it belongs.

What's most pathetic about the World-Herald's running this article today, though, is actually its lead editorial which has the audacity to demand a federal shield law that protects the identity of anonymous sources in the press.

How hypocritical is that to reveal the identity (and so much more) of a man afraid for his life on the same day they demand reporters be exempted from ever being forced to reveal such things in a criminal investigation. Talk about a power trip - the World-Herald wants to be judge, jury, and executioner...above the law in every way.

Now, personally, I support some legal assurances of confidentiality in the press, but I'm not the one who just violated the very principle on which such an idea should be founded - not some precariously vague notion of freedom of the press but rather serving the public good by protecting whistle-blowers and those who challenge the status quo.

In the "Valerie Plame" incident that forces this issue, there is no honest claim to serving the public good. The name of a CIA operative was leaked to the press as payback against a critic of the Bush Administration. Of course, here comes the World-Herald to defend a principle they violated on the exact same day - perhaps because the identity of this anonymous source could very well be none other than "Bush's Brain" Karl Rove.

Just goes to show: actions speak louder than words and - when both are twisted to serve such a blindly partisan political agenda as the World-Herald's - all bets are off.

Does the World-Herald do this intentionally - are they so hypocritical just to see if they can get away with it? In that case, how much must they hate their readers because this....this is ridiculous. I would suggest this was a new low if I wasn't so sure the next one's right around the corner.

39 Comments:

Anonymous Cowpunk said...

I want to challenge everyone who reads this blog to make this important story go national. I have already emailed Buzzflash ( buzzflash@buzzflash.com ) and OpEd News ( contact@opednews.com ) and encouraged them to link to this blog. I'm sure there are other progressive news outlets or atheist groups who might be interested. If people all across the country start writing nasty letters to the World Herald, maybe they will think twice before publishing such an irresponsible story next time. It also might get some more traffic into Kyle's fine blog.

7/04/2005  
Blogger helmut said...

Done. http://phronesisaical.blogspot.com/

7/04/2005  
Blogger aleand said...

Might be a good idea to contact romenesko at poynter.org.

That would put this out in the open fast, I think.

7/04/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One begins to think of the movie paparazzi and payback time

7/04/2005  
Blogger Ray Radlein said...

It's on Eschaton now; that pretty much guarantees that someone will talk about it at Romensko's place. I suspect that Editor & Publisher will pick it up, too.

7/04/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this makes me furious. Why don't they just say, "It would be terrible if anything happened to this guy, but here's his home, here's what he looks like, here's where he works, now please don't do anything because it would be illegal, but if something did happen, well, it's God's punishment."

I hope he sues the hell out of the paper if anyone so much as pisses on his lawn.

7/04/2005  
Blogger Gen. JC Christian, Patriot said...

The World-World Herald acted extremely irresponsibly, but I'm also very dissapointed that the ACLU argued for prior restraint in court. That goes against everything for which they stand.

7/04/2005  
Blogger Gen. JC Christian, Patriot said...

Send a note to Romanesko. Identify yourself as the publisher of New Nebraska Network. It's a great, albeit disturbibg, story. He'll post your story along with a link. He's done so for me.

7/04/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roe v. Wade? The name of plaintiff is not the issue. The issue is the issue.

ALso, it this the same reporter?
http://www.thecompassnews.org/compass/2002-03-22/02cn0322c4.htm

If so, is his new denomination a factor in writing the piece?

7/04/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WWRJD?

What Would Republican Jesus Do?

7/04/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

E&P has picked this up at:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000972884

7/04/2005  
Anonymous Stentor said...

I just called up their main office, and stated that I wished to post a complaint. Here's the number, 402-444-1000, I was transferred twice before I got to speak with someone, but I told them as a former Nebraska resident (my hometown is Hastings) and Omaha-World-Herald paperboy, I was outraged by this type of smear tactic, and dirty campaigning. I further told them that since I now lived in California that I would make every effort to deny them advertising dollars, then I gave my name, thanked the lady, and hung up. I encourage everyone else to do the same. This serves no constructive purpose other than to expose this man to further danger from right-wing nutjobs who think it's their duty to harass anyone who doesn't think like they do. Total Bullshit!

7/04/2005  
Blogger spocko said...

Consider me officially disgusted. This just PISSES Me off! I'll write about it on my blog and I've got 15 readers now (2 of them Nebraskans!) who will agitate on this issue.

The good news is that because the people who might be pissed off about this are good Christians the guy should be totally safe. I'm pretty sure that Jesus said that they shouldn't be killing other people. Of course that won't stop the Old Testament Rapture Right "Christians" who think it is okay to kill doctors who perform abortions and who support bombing innocents in Iraq.

Frankly, the religious community should rally around this guy to protect him from the nuts in the OT Rapture Right "Christan" community.

I'm going to join the group that is defending this guy just to show my support. I'm a Christian and a believer in a strong separation between church and state.

The World Herald is out of line and for them to publish this guy's identity knowing full well he has had death treats will make them culpably if he is injured.

Spocko of Spocko's Brain.
The Blog that is sweeping the Nation! Now with 15 readers!
www.spockosbrain.com
BTW, if you want to read the article and don't want to register with the Omaha World Herald go to www.bugmenot.com and get a login.

7/04/2005  
Blogger pookapooka said...

So, can some angel who lives in the Omaha area and who knows where these brownshirts live, what car they drive, what license number, and perhaps a nice picture or two of them -- and by "them" I mean the entire staff and board of directors -- please post this information on many very public sites, so that properly indignant Omaha people can politely express their opinion of the actions of the newsrag they are responsible for, either verbally live and in living color, or symbolically, like the burning dogturd on the doorstep type of communication?

7/04/2005  
Blogger spocko said...

Stentor Thanks for the phone number. I called to. They transfered me to the newsroom and after I told them I was upset that they listed this guy's name and that they were making him a target. She said that today they were talking calls listing people's opinion on this issue (for targeting him for death or against?) She said that I could call up tomorrow and express my opinion to Larry King the executive editor (that is his real name!). \
Right before she answered I her here say to a collegue "It's been like this all day!" So hopefully the good people of the left have been calling in disgust of this outting.

I thanked her politely. I have to remember that I'm not mad at the editor that answered the phone, for all I know she agreed with my stance and is seeking others to support her views.

7/04/2005  
Blogger Goddam Liberal said...

Hello from the Arid Zone. I wrote about this on my blog:

Link

I wanted to write a letter to the editor, but couldn't find a link or address on their website. Anyone have the info? We should bury these @$$holes in letters condemning them for endangering the life of a private citizen and his children.

7/04/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

-Anne Coulter

7/04/2005  
Blogger Phoenix Woman said...

One of the Eschaton regulars is working on getting a home address and phone number for the OWH culprits.

They should have no objections, right?

7/04/2005  
Blogger Phoenix Woman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7/04/2005  
Blogger Pinko Punko said...

Maybe they can sell some ads on the cross before it gets lit on this guy's laws. What an awesome newspaper. I wouldn't put it in my birds cage to crap on.

7/04/2005  
Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

I'm honored by everyone's stopping by. Thanks to Atrios and friends for helping get this sad excuse for journalism the attention it deserves. I'm all for pressuring the World-Herald to wake-up from its unthinking Republican coma and to start taking its responsibility to the citizens of this state seriously. Please keep those letters and phone calls coming.

Note, however, that I did delete one comment from this thread (something I hate to do) because it printed the private contact information of a World-Herald employee. My goal here is to prevent such harassment before it starts...not to set-off a pre-emptive strike. This site will play no part in such tactics. When the truth and common decency are both on our side, why sacrifice the best of ourselves to make a statement?

We are better than that...otherwise, there's no hope for any of us and there's certainly no point in maintaining a site such as this. I need to believe we can do better.

7/04/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These newspaper nut cases will see justice alright...upon themselves and on any Right Wing Religious sinner who self-appoints himself as God's avenger.

Something old:
"The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah." Psalms 9:16.

Something new:
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10.

"For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Matthew 7:2.     

7/04/2005  
Anonymous Stentor said...

Spocko, that doesn't surprise me at all, I ripped that lady a new one, politely of course, but I definitely tore her a new cornhole, as we used to say in Nebraska.

7/04/2005  
Anonymous Cowpunk said...

"This site will play no part in such tactics. When the truth and common decency are both on our side, why sacrifice the best of ourselves to make a statement?"

Well said, Kyle. Let's remember we're the good guys, folks.

7/04/2005  
Anonymous nuttymango said...

It's up on dailykos here:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/7/4/17133/16818

7/04/2005  
Blogger Arnold P. California said...

Responding to the General's disappointment that the ACLU would support a prior restraint in this case, and to the newspaper's charge of hypocrisy:

If the ACLU had nothing to do with the underlying lawsuit, we'd have a different situation. They certainly wouldn't have publicly opposed the newspaper's right to publish the name, and perhaps they would even have supported it.

But the ACLU people are involved in the underlying lawsuit in a critical way: they are lawyers, and John Doe is their client. They have a legal duty to defend his interests to the best of their ability within the bounds of the law. If there was a non-frivolous basis for them to seek an injunction, they had no choice but to do so. That's what the law requires lawyers to do (I say this as a lawyer myself). Even if you personally disagree with the client's position, you've got to advocate that position zealously.

Of course, organizations like the ACLU choose their clients strategically so as to bring cases that advance the organization's mission. So here they took a client who wanted to challenge a supposed breach of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. But once they do take the client, they have the same duties as any other lawyer; if the mission of the organization conflicts with the client's interests, they have to do what's best for the client.

I've worked as a public interest lawyer, and when in private practice I've done a lot of pro bono work (including with the ACLU). Trust me: this kind of issue comes up all the time. You have the larger strategic objectives that the lawyers are trying to achieve for society in general, and you have the particular interests of the client. And you've always got to remember who comes first.

7/05/2005  
Blogger ddoodd said...

I sent FAIR a note about this, too.

fair@fair.org.

Don't know what they might do with it, but there it is.

7/05/2005  
Blogger Elaine Supkis said...

Atheism in Nebraska

Wrote about this matter. I hope to spread it around too.

Keep up the good work.

7/05/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Omaha and work with two people who live in Plattsmouth. I wouldn't be counting on the good people of Plattsmouth to show any restraint.

This is a town that hosts the King Korn Karnival (specifically spelled with all K's).

7/05/2005  
Anonymous O'McSomething said...

Says story not found. Did the power of the blog make 'em pull it?

7/05/2005  
Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

Links fixed. The story was moved - not deleted - who knows why? But, they can't hide from us forever...

7/05/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems that a post was pulled for personal information..but I got this directly from the paper...called today...so not technically personal, but work related.

An addy for general comments can be pulse@owh.com. Supposedly the work emails follow normal procedures...so blah.blah@owh.com. If you feel like letting the author and the photog know what you think.

I've already written as one atheist to support another.

7/05/2005  
Blogger Gadfly said...

As a journalist, athiest and card-carrying ACLU member, I find this appalling. Below is my letter to the editor at the World-Herald, cc'ed to Executive Editor Larry King.

Dear World Herald:

As someone who is both a journalist and an atheist, and a stereotypical "card-carrying member of the ACLU," albeit from Dallas, not New York, I would like to salute your hypocrisy for running an editorial calling for a federal shield law to protect journalists keeping their sources anonymous at the very same time that, in a news story, you "out" Ron Larsen, an atheist previously listed as a "John Doe" plaintiff in a First Amendment case.

But, that only begins to describe the rankness of your hypocrisy. Outing this John Doe was not enough. In addition, your news desk, reporter and editor decided you had to run a picture of the person, list his place of employment, the make of his car and the location of his house. And you did all of that after hypocritically claiming you didn't want to endanger anybody, even though the man said he had been threatened with firebombing and his son had been beaten.

John Doe provisions have been used in other civil cases. Given the degree of heat this one involves, neither Larson nor the ACLU should be faulted for seeking such a shield here. Nor should the ACLU be labeled as hypoocritical, especially when we know who the real hypocrites are.

7/05/2005  
Blogger Gadfly said...

Jesus' General blows this one with his unfortunate ACLU-scolding.

Uhh, ever hear of Roe v. Wade?

7/05/2005  
Anonymous jello said...

want to bypass the newsroom operator.

what's larry king's HOME phone number?

or john ferak's or jeff bundy's?

can somebody dig it up?

7/05/2005  
Anonymous Sue said...

this is disgusting there should be more Doe cases not fewer because people need to be protected against the fascist media and the fascists around them that wish them dead for exercising their constitutional right to their day in the supreme court

7/05/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you aren't supposed to out a source, but it's entirely okay to out someone who is recieving death threats.

Man this newspeak and the rules that go with it is hard stuff to keep up with.

IXLNXS

and a big nice one to the blog owner for not wishing to bring ourselves down to their level, but perhaps being afraid to go as low as they do might have caused us an election and continues to allow them to act like the complete explicatives that they are. Outing them shows who they are and what they do and what they look like and where they live for the whole world to know.

7/05/2005  
Anonymous Tim Green said...

Maybe the minority will stop telling the majority what to think, GO GET EM WORLD-HERALD!!!

7/06/2005  
Anonymous Nacho said...

Posted it in my weblog also: http://www.woodmoorvillage.org/

Thanks for clearly articulating that our response must be better than "in kind." The ethical response here is not to strike the same attitude nor take hurtful actions against those others.

Thanks,

N

7/06/2005  

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