The Student Press Law Center has done a great job rounding up media reactions across Virginia to the recent seizure of pictures from the James Madison University student newspaper, The Breeze, upon which FIRE reported yesterday. Suffice it to say that the media is not amused.
For instance, The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote:
The First Amendment is not some sort of immunity totem from a reality show, granting journalists the license to do whatever they please without consequence. They cannot, for instance, refuse to disclose the location of a kidnapped child under the guise of being a ‘neutral observer’ of the search. Reporters and editors are members of civil society, and have duties to it.
But that goes both ways. Journalism plays a crucial role in a democracy, and in order to do its job well it must be able to exercise certain rights and privileges. It requires independence; it cannot be a mere appendage for other institutions.
A good point. Prosecutors and police, as well as college administrators, would do well to remember that independent college newspapers are real newspapers, not convenient mouthpieces for the school or (in this case) a cut-rate investigatory agency. A good rule of thumb for law enforcement and college administrators alike: If you wouldn’t do something to The New York Times, think hard about whether it’s something you should be doing to one of your school’s independent newspapers.