Behind Eric Holder's Closed Door, News Execs Plead Case for Free Press

By:  Jack Kenny
Behind Eric Holder's Closed Door, News Execs Plead Case for Free Press

Officials of major news organizations held closed-door talks with Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Thursday on DOJ searches of news media phone records and e-mails.

Representatives of several major news organizations went behind closed doors Thursday in an off-the-record discussion with Attorney General Eric Holder on the rules governing Department of Justice searches of news media telephone records and e-mail in investigations of news leaks.

Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole are "reaching out to editors and counsels for news organizations about how to strike what they called 'the balance' between protecting the flow of information and journalists' ability to do our jobs and what they described as national security damage," according to Politico editor-in-chief John Harris, one of the media executives who attended the closed-door meeting in Cole's Justice Department office.

Other media representatives in attendance were Martin Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post; Gerald Seib, the Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau chief; Jane Mayer, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine; and Jim Warren, the Washington bureau chief for the New York Daily News. Other news organizations that were invited but did not attend were the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, CNN, Fox News, Reuters, NBC News, CBS News, and the McClatchy news service. Members of those organizations cited the AG's insistence that participants might not report on the meeting as the reason for not attending.

"They don't help us inform the public," McClatchy Washington bureau chief James Asher said of off-the record sessions in an interview with Poynter News University. "This one seems designed mostly to make a public relations point and not a substantive one. If the government wants to justify its pursuit of journalists, they ought to do it in public."

"If it is not on the record, AP will not attend," an Associated Press spokesperson told Huffington Post's Michael Calderone, adding that AP would offer its views on how regulations should be updated in an open letter. "We would expect AP attorneys to be included in any planned meetings between the Attorney General's office and media lawyers on the legal specifics."

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Photo of Attorney General Eric Holder: AP Images

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