- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette, June 3, 2014

Supreme Court rightly comes down on side of a free press

New York has a strong “Shield Law” which protects journalists from being forced to reveal their confidential sources.

Many states have shield laws of some sort, but most aren’t as strong. Case in point: Colorado.

Back in July 2012, James Holmes walked into a movie theatre during a midnight showing of “Batman, The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Col. He carried a small arsenal and opened fire, killing 12 and injuring 70.

Holmes faces more than 130 felony charges in connection with the brutal attack.

New York-based Fox News reporter Jana Winter covered the case. And in her reporting she relied on two confidential sources. Holmes’ defense team said her reporting compromised their client’s right to a fair trial. They also say her sources violated a Colorado judge’s gag order in the case. The lawyers want to know here she got her information. They want her to reveal her sources.

She refused.

So they went to court.

Initially, the defense lawyers didn’t get very far in Colorado - a judge there was reluctant to order Winter to reveal her sources since he wasn’t sure the evidence she published would be admissible in court. But a Colorado court eventually issued a subpoena for Winter.

The next step was to take the case to New York, arguing that Winter should be forced to return to Colorado and testify about her sources. Holmes’ lawyers argued New York’s Shield Law did not apply since Winters gained her information outside the state.

They won on the first round, but an appeal to the New York State Court of Appeals ended with a 4-3 ruling in Winter’s favor.

“Protection of the anonymity of confidential sources is a core - if not the central - concern underlying New York’s journalist privilege, with roots that can be traced back to the inception of the press in New York,” Judge Victoria A. Graffeo wrote for the majority.

“A rule predicated on where a New York reporter was located when she learned of an anonymous tip would lead to arbitrary results and would ignore several practical realities, including the widespread use of cutting-edge communication technology to facilitate the newsgathering process and the global nature today’s news market,” she added.

Holmes’ defense team took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. And last week the court upheld the state appeals courts’ ruling.

So Winter cannot be compelled to testify. She cannot be compelled to reveal her sources.

That’s a victory for a free press in this country. And it’s victory for the public.

Forcing journalists to reveal confidential sources would have a chilling effect on the people’s right to know and allow the threat of legal action to silence the press. That’s something dictators in third-world countries rely on to hold power. But it’s something we cannot afford in the U.S.

Unfortunately, shield laws are weaker elsewhere than in New York. We can only hope this ruling will inspire other state legislatures to bolster their laws to protect journalists and their sources.

But we aren’t holding our breath.

___

Southwest Times Record, June 1, 2014

Great news for Fort Smith’s workers

It was a good week for Fort Smith and the city’s economic development.

Thursday’s announcement that Georgia-Pacific is investing $40 million in new technology and equipment at its Fort Smith Dixie products facility was followed by Friday’s announcement that ArcBest plans a new corporate headquarters at Chaffee Crossing. To get the weekend started with a bang, ArcBest said it expects 975 new jobs from the expansion as well, according to a report in Saturday’s edition.

The new line at Dixie is expected to start in 2015, creating jobs there as well. The investment will allow the company to increase its current capacity for assorted sizes of paper plates. Georgia-Pacific will invest $100 million in Arkansas plants this year, following more than $30 million in upgrades since 2012, according to a report in Friday’s edition.

ArcBest’s announced plans represent an investment by the company, city of Fort Smith and state of Arkansas of $30 million and call for almost 1,000 new jobs through 2021.

The company says it has been pressed for space in recent years. The plan is to move corporate and administrative functions to the new facility. ABF Logistics will also find its home there.

Remaining at the larger Old Greenwood Road facility will be ABF Freight System and ArcBest Technologies, the company’s IT solutions group.

The two announcements together remind us of the high esteem in which the Fort Smith region’s workforce is held.

Gov. Mike Beebe said the Dixie expansion showcases Arkansas’ “role in American manufacturing” and shows the company’s “continued confidence in the Fort Smith workforce.”

Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, speaking about the ArcBest plan said, “The announcement underscores that Fort Smith is a great American city from which to run a business with solutions that span the globe.” He thanked ArcBest for its “vote of confidence in the strength of Sebastian County’s workforce through this action.”

We add our thanks to both companies and to our neighbors whose decades of honest work at both companies has convinced them that Fort Smith is a place to grow.

___

Log Cabin Democrat, May 27, 2014

Statewide vote for ‘wet’ counties is wrong

After several failed attempts, a statewide push to make all counties in Arkansas “wet” or alcohol-sale-friendly, has been approved by the attorney general. If enough signatures are collected in the next month, a ballot initiative could be placed in front of every voter in Arkansas in November, the same time we will all be voting for several state and national offices.

Even before this latest news, there has already been a local effort to have a similar law passed in Faulkner County - there are still those canvassing for signatures at the county-level.

Although it may seem to be a simple question - do we want easier access to alcohol in our city and county - there are other issues to consider, and this latest development can actually create a situation where those who have nothing to do with Faulkner County can tell us how our community will be from here on out.

If a ballot initiative does make it to the state voters in a few months, then those people in Little Rock and Fayetteville will decide whether we will begin to house liquor stores on our blocks and makeshift beer and wine aisles in our grocery stores. While we have nothing personally against these images - we have certainly progressed passed the days of prohibition and bootlegging - it says something that the ability to create parts of our community the way we see fit could be taken away from us.

Conway, along with several other cities in Arkansas, have participated in an experiment over the past few years that allows us to be a “damp” county. Many restaurants have become in a sense private clubs, with no real differences to restaurants in larger areas in the state. Because of that, if you want to have a burger with your beer or a glass of wine with your steak, there are many places where that is possible. It has allowed Conway to grow and to bring more things to more people. No longer do you have to trek 30 minutes for a fine meal and everything that comes with it.

We believe it’s an experiment that has worked. The downtown scene has thrived, and Conway has become a hub for more familiar franchises (with many more on the way courtesy of Central Landing, among other developments). But what happens if that experiment is changed not by our own people, but by those who do not help provide nor care for the community of Conway? Shouldn’t the decision of what we make our area reside with the people who have committed to live in it?

There are many questions that can be raised by shifting from a dry (or damp) county to one that is wet. There will be concerns from businesspeople, law enforcement and city planners. The last time this concern was addressed was nearly 40 years ago, and although times are always changing, it is nice to know that it has been the people of Conway who have been able to dictate that change.

This isn’t a human rights issue, like various ones being waged in our capitol. This is about the ability for the villagers to have a say about the village in which they live.

We’ve done pretty well so far. We shouldn’t have anyone else telling us it doesn’t work.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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