The last 5 years have brought a priceless journey that has taught the people in our media organization invaluable lessons. We’re proud that we have told stories that otherwise would have gone unreported, made government and business more accountable and elections more interesting, and given more people a voice. In the end, by shining the light, we hope we’ve made Hawaii a better place in which to live.Fortunately, one of Hawaii Reporter's main competitors the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is firmly supporting Hawaii Reporter's status as a real news organization despite the fact that it is not a dead tree publication. The Star-Bulletin writes:
Without accountability, Hawaii’s economy, business climate, small business survival rate and standard of living were spiraling downward, while property taxes, general excise taxes, government fees and the cost of living were shooting upward. There were few alternatives in Honolulu to the two daily papers, and if they ignored a story, quite often no one heard about it. That happened all too often. Television stations -- with a few exceptions -- settled for 10 second sound bites for issues they carefully selected and more entertainment than investigative or enterprise reporting.
We decided rather than complaining about the climate of fear, lack of education and retaliation, we had the talent and means to do something about it. We planned to create a venue for more investigative and enterprising reporting, to establish a news entity (first print, then television and radio shows) without restrictive ties to advertisers, and to let more people publish their views. We offered the public a chance to print their entire letters or opeds. We also published public record and audits with our reports so people could read more for themselves. We are the only local media to do so.
Backed by a handful of investors, we built an online daily newspaper that today still offers news, views from all perspectives, political analysis, opinion and original investigative reporting on government, business, education and politics. A second division in Hawaii Reporter offers vital local public record and a tracking system that allows lawyers, investors, accountants, real estate and mortgage professionals, marketers and small business owners to watch and track their competition with minimal time investment.
The biggest rewards come each day with the many stories we document that would have gone untold had we not uncovered and reported them and the grateful readers who write in to say they had not seen these stories anywhere else.
The most recent coverage comes because we are challenging in court two subpoenas for our journalism records and sources and testimony by one of Hawaii’s most rich and powerful people, James Pflueger, and his team of attorneys led by William McCorriston. This is a case that could result in precedent setting First Amendment guarantees to the newest form of journalism -- electronic media and is gaining national attention.
A lawyer is challenging the right of Internet journalist Malia Zimmerman to protect the identities of her confidential sources, mistakenly calling her a blogger. Zimmerman clearly derives her livelihood from gathering the news and disseminating it on her Hawaiireporter.com Web site and deserves the same protection given to more traditional journalists.The First Amendment, despite being written on paper and about paper, has routinely been expanded as technology for delivering the news and editorial opinion has changed. Radio, broadcast TV, cable TV and other technological innovations have allowed for faster distribution of news and the internet is no different.
McCorriston's assertion that Zimmerman is a blogger is far off the mark. In fact, she might be Hawaii's only independent journalist who depends entirely on the Internet for distribution of news, albeit with her conservative spin.
The question of what constitutes a blogger and what protections should be provided has stalled a proposed federal shield law for more than two years. Former New York Times columnist William Safire told a Senate committee that he thinks "the lonely pamphleteer has the same rights" as the Times. Indeed, Aaron Barlow, author of the new book "The Rise of the Blogosphere," calls Ben Franklin "the patron saint of the blogs."
What makes a journalist's use of confidential sources an essential element of the First Amendment is that the person is "in the business of gathering news," Safire testified. That factor should be key.
Those considerations might be impossible to include in any legislation to create a federal shield law. Courts should be relied upon to use common sense in determining whether a person spreading news and opinions, whether door to door or across the Internet, needs certain rights in order to preserve the integrity of the First Amendment. Zimmerman clearly falls into that category.
I am no reporter, just a guy with a keyboard, a blog and a big mouth. I rely on people like Zimmerman to provide news and if the provision of that news includes the use of confidential sources, I am not only fine with that concept, I embrace it. While I may blast the media's biases and decisions about what is news and what is not news, I will never, ever stand idly by and allow anyone to silence their right to their business and their opinions. Nor should anyone else who believes in the Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press or any other First Amendment Rights.
I hope anyone who reads this post will do your best to publicize the incident.