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Front Page » December 25, 2007 » Opinion » Opinion
Published 2,528 days ago

Opinion


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

While some people think that reporters in Utah have an immunity from prosecution for holding back privileged information from law enforcement or justice officials, the fact is that we don't.

Some in government agencies might think this is a good thing; but it isn't. Without the ability to protect sources, news reporters, whether they be print or broadcast, could lose valuable aides to exposing government corruption, white collar crime or many other kinds of information that could lead to showing up bad guys.

A lot of people argue that in states where shield laws are powerful, reporters could lay waste to efforts to prevent terrorism or other types of criminal acts. It's funny but in times of stress and national emergency it is the tendency of many to try and dismantle the constitution, and take away the presses right to investigate freely anything at all and for the public to know about it.

While 47 other states in the union grant some form of protection to journalists who try to do their jobs and keep from revealing sources, Utah is one of the three that does not. And there is no federal laws covering this situation, as many think. While congress is considering it, they have not acted.

Utah needs to adopt a shield law that will give news people certain kinds of guarantees that they will not have to go to jail to keep from revealing their sources. At the present the Utah Supreme Court is considering Rule 509 and a decision on it will be made in mid-January. The rule, which has been developed by an advisory committee to the court could provide the protection journalists need.

But why is this important to you the reader?

It would assure that sources, such as whistleblowers, would have their identities and possibly their lives protected if they give information to the news media. Without this rule, fears could affect many kinds of information that public should have about government corruption. For some the fact their name might be revealed puts them in a place where they could lose their jobs, their ability to get a job and even could create family problems for them. In fact in some cases such powerful forces can be at work here, the sources own life may be threatened.

Without a reporter's privilege, there is a chilling effect on whistleblowers and others who would disclose wrongdoing to news reporters. In that way it will serve the public interest. A reporter's privilege does not place journalists above the law, but instead it ensures an independent press that is a check and balance on government. Journalists must be able to remain independent, so that they can maintain their traditional role as neutral watchdogs and objective observers. When reporters are called into court to testify for or against a party, their credibility is harmed. Potential sources come to see them as agents of the state, or supporters of criminal defendants, or as advocates for one side or the other in civil disputes. In the end, sources are less likely to talk to journalists when there is no legal protection.

Now what is being proposed is not cut and dried. It has provisions in it that would create a situation where if the information a reporter has is of importance in saving lives or preventing action by others that could be detrimental to the good of all citizens. They could be forced to reveal the details. Unpublished, non-confidential news gathering material such as outtakes, notes, photographs, etc., also are protected by the proposed rule, subject to the balancing test that the Utah federal and state courts have been using for the past 20 years. Therefore, in a case-by-case basis a judge can determine whether "the free flow of information to news reporters outweighs the need for disclosure."

The rule, as proposed, represents the work of many sincere and earnest people in not only the professions of journalism, the law and law enforcement, but also the advisory committee and the judiciary. Through this process, an advisory committee became intimately familiar with the shield laws of other states and the District of Columbia.

If adopted by the Utah Supreme Court, the state's rule will be a model of reporter's shield laws in the nation.

Citizens can make comments about the rule to the Utah Supreme Court until Jan. 22, 2008. Citizens should take a stand on this issue and give their input. That can be done by logging onto the Internet and visiting http://utahcourts.notlong.com.

Citizens deserve an open and transparent government; they also deserve an unencumbered press. Now is one of the chances you have of guaranteeing it.


Merry Christmas to everyone who reads my column each week. Oh, and Merry Christmas to those that don't, too. I will just have to tell them all in person I guess.

I was sitting watching the snow fall and you know how it is hard for me to do anything when the snow falls, so instead I was thinking about Christmas past.

This season I don't really have any wants or needs for under the Christmas tree. When I was six though, they introduced a doll that talked when you pulled her string. My sister and I wanted one really bad. My sister's name is Cathy and so she wanted the Chatty Cathy model. I would have settled for the smaller Chatty Baby.

My parents hid the packages that had them in so we had opened all our presents and thought that Santa had forgotten our requests. Then, out of nowhere two more presents appeared. We were ecstatic.

A few years later when I was about 10, a monster snowstorm blanketed Iowa on Christmas Eve. The kids were all in the kitchen decorating sugar cookies when the lights went out. We finished by candlelight. We spent more time laughing than fighting about who was using too much green frosting.

We sang carols until late and then everyone balled up in blankets to keep warm and went to sleep. The power came on late Christmas morning and the world was blanketed in glistening white and almost unearthly quiet.

By the time I was 18, I spent my first Christmas away from family while sitting in a barracks in Orlando, Fla. during boot camp. Many of us cried a bit and then we headed to the PX to make phone calls home.

There was the Christmas many years later, when I took my girls to the Children's Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve. The church was packed and the kids were invited to sit up at the altar with the priest as he said Mass.

I was jammed up in the balcony. I was touched by the angelic look on all the children's faces when suddenly I watched in horror as one of my girls hauled off and popped the other on the side of the head. The other relatiated and I was sure a full sibling brawl was about to take place in front of God and everyone. Luckily a quick look from the priest stopped it and all was well again.

Each Christmas has its special memories for me. I have a desire that for all of you there is a few moments in your hectic lives, that you can have some peace and joy. I hope life's tragedies will take a day off and each of you will make a new and happy memory.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!


I'm not an educated feller, but I've never been a fool. I'm a broken-down old cowboy who never spent much time in school. So when it comes to knowing history, philosophy and such, I might not be the brightest bulb, but I try to stay in touch.

I've spent my life on the open range, where tall grass meets the sky. I've witnessed God's great handiwork, and I've often wondered why. Why did God make this wonder world? What am I doing here? What is my fate, my purpose? The answer wasn't clear.

I've never been much on religion. Never spent much time in church. I figured God would take care of things, from his lofty, cloud-lined perch. And I never understood Christmas. I could never figure why, the God of life would be born a babe, to suffer, and to die.

Then one cold night I saddled up, and rode out to find some cows. A big old storm was brewing, and the wind began to howl. A barn had been provided, but the cows stayed on the range. With blowing snow and freezing wind, I thought that rather strange. Cows are quite dim-witted, but they should have seen the danger. The barn provided shelter, and there was fresh hay in the manger. What silly, hopeless creatures would stay out there in the cold, with food and shelter waiting, in the safety of the fold?

The wind was blowing fiercely when I finally found some stock. But as I approached they broke and ran - an unexpected shock. I set the spurs to Trigger and I tried to head them off, but the brainless critters scattered, in the snow and cold and dark.

I couldn't follow every trail. I couldn't bring them back. The snow was falling heavily and covering the tracks. Those foolish cattle didn't know that I was their best friend. I was only trying to save them from a cold and bitter end. I hung my head and shed a tear, for I knew what the storm would bring. There would be a lot of cattle bones on the range in the coming spring.

If only cows could understand, I'd lead them home to shelter. I'd save them from a painful death in the dark and stormy weather. But only cows can talk to other cows in the language that they know. And I was not a stupid cow, but a cowboy don't you know.

It took an hour to ride the trail that led back to the shack. The wind fought me for my Stetson, and there was snow on Trigger's back. My toes were almost frostbit, my nose was frozen pink, but in that hour I had some time to ponder, and to think.

That's when inspiration hit me, like a bullet from the blue. To make cows understand me, there was only one thing I could do. I'd have to be another cow to make them see the way. I'd have to moo and chew my cud to rescue them today. I know it does sound silly, but there was just no other course. The cows couldn't understand me, from my high perch on the horse.

And then I thought of God above, and how difficult it must be, for him to try to communicate with old cowboys just like me. And then I finally understood, why Mary was his mother. He was trying to get me in the barn, like a friend and like a brother.

Merry Christmas.


Editor:

Price's mayor, city council and Governor Jon Huntsman ought to be commended for bringing Sorensen Communications into the county.

This company will help every community in the county by supplying good jobs that will support our economy.

Along with the coal miners being called back to work and the Lila Canyon mine probably opening it will be a great help to the community.

Speaking of the Lila Canyon mine, I would like to appeal to Judge Dale Kimball who is handling the case the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance put against opening the mine.

Judge Kimball, you are a free thinking and intelligent individual, with an open mind. The operation by UtahAmerican Energy will not harm the soil, vegetation or animals. It will however, be a boost to the local economy.

SUWA just needs to stay out of Carbon and Emery counties.


Editor:

I was disheartened to see the children's drawings and their response to "What Christmas means to me" in the Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 edition of the Sun Advocate.

Out of a hundred plus children only five of the students got it right. Jesus is the reason for the season; nothing more nothing less. My hat goes off to the children's parents.

Merry Christmas to each of them.


Editor:

In Nine Mile Canyon on November 30, 2007, a second archaeological site was damaged near Cottonwood Canyon below the Cottonwood Village by a drilling company blading the road. A site very near this one was hit four times before the Bureau of Land Management responded. Currently only"T"posts with small warning signs mark that site, not barriers.

As of December 20, the second site remains unmarked. The public has not been informed of either nor their significance.

The canyon's environment is paying for the ever increasing cumulative impact from year-round 24/7 industrial traffic. Residual dust obscures the early morning vista. The charm and character of this national backcountry byway is disappearing. Dust poses health hazards to both human and animal. Rock art is being covered with dust, which over time will make many sites unobservable. Continual noise from the Dry Canyon compression station further diminishes the visitor's experience.

Had the BLM been as concerned for Nine Mile Canyon in 2003 as it was for industry's prosperity, the old road on top of Gate Canyon across to Trail Canyon and down to Harmon Canyon would have been upgraded to "Gold Book Standards" and today, heavy industrial traffic would be crossing Nine Mile Canyon not traversing it.

When will Utah's world famous Nine Mile Canyon, an irreplaceable cultural phenomenon become a priority to the Bureau of Land Management, Carbon and Duchesne County? Who will tell future generations how corporate windfall profits were far more important than our one-of-a-kind canyon?


Editor:

TRAX was a dead horse when our legislatures thought of the idea. Eight years into this nightmare referred to as TRAX, the amount of people expected to ride them is down and expenditures are up.

First our great legislatures spent $200 million dollars and then another $200 million and now another $200 million dollars. I believe that is $400 million to move 50,000 people per day. I wonder how much that figures out per day to move one person? I wonder how much each person in the State of Utah pays per day to move 50,000 people.

It is amazing how short sided our great legislators really are. Even after eight years our lawmakers still want to pump more money into this dead horse.

Maybe they want to try and keep up with the amount of money our federal government spent on their dead horse. According to the White House, Amtrak already has received more than $24 billion in tax dollars.

Our legislature is doing their best to give the citizens of Utah a wonderful dead horse to bust our budget.

This is my opinion and my opinion only and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of anyone else.


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December 25, 2007
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