The Gag Order
The recent gag order on the news media in the Blankenship case is now making national news. From an editorial in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:
Given the high profile of the tragedy and its aftermath, it's astounding that on the day after the indictment, U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger issued a laughably broad gag order in the case. Not only did Berger bar lawyers and court officials involved from discussing the case publicly, she extended the gag to "family members of actual or alleged victims." In other words, even Victim X's long-lost cousin twice removed and living far from the state of West Virginia is legally barred from discussing the case. Furthermore, only those people involved in the case may review court records, including the indictment itself. Several news organizations challenged the gag order this week.
How bad is the gag order? Even our local "newspaper" editorialized against it. I was glad to see them take an editorial stand but given the number of Ogden newspapers in the state, why didn’t they join the original lawsuit? (The lawsuit includes the Charleston Gazette, The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, National Public Radio and the Friends of Public Broadcasting.)
Get out your Friday Intelligencer and compare how it covered the federal indictment of Don Blankenship with the screenshot of this morning's Charleston Gazette below.
Notice the differences:
The Gazette featured two locally-written, long articles prominently placed in the upper-half of the front page. One article is about the indictment and another is on the reaction of some of the survivors of those who died in the mine. (Both are continued on different pages.) Not pictured but also on page 7 is a detailed timeline of the important events.
The Intelligencer: It featured a teaser headline above the masthead that required that you turn to page 3 in order to read a short AP summary of the indictment. (The Festival of Lights was the big story for the day!)
Back when Blankenship was head of Massey Energy, his views were regularly featured on the front page of Wheeling "newspapers" (not unlike Robert Murray of Murray Energy is today). And similar to Murray, Blankeship was never criticized. And now that a federal grand jury has indicted him, he's shuffled off to page 3. Who knows? Maybe his defense will be that his indictment is just another part of Obama's "war on coal" in which case he'll be back on the front page again.