Thursday, April 18, 2013

University Censorship Portland Style

Three Forks, Montana
One of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat is the Iron Horse Café in Three Forks, Montana.  Three Forks is where the Gallitan, Madison and Jefferson rivers join to form the headwaters of the Missouri River before it begins its 2,341 mile journey across the northern tier of the United States to join ultimately the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri.  Three Forks is a celebrated Lewis and Clark encampment.  On their return trip Meriwether Lewis continued northeast along the Missouri River while George Clark branched off due east along the Gallitan River, headed towards Bozeman Pass, camping overnight at the mouth of Kelly Canyon within sight of our home.  Most everything Lewis and Clark is held in awe in Montana.  They survived an extraordinary journey that opened the American West.  But this story is not about Lewis and Clark, the men; it’s about Lewis and Clark, the law school, and its pathetic leadership.

The news these days has come to be everything but news – opinions, sources, views and feelings, anything but hard and objective fact, all filtered through political perspective.  It starts in the universities that train (I almost said "educate" here, but that implies a level of thinking and critical discourse that has been abandoned) our young adults.  This Lewis and Clark story reveals forces that create the sad alternative reality that news reporting has become.   The universities are building culture and journalistic process around image and communal acceptance.   Veracity and honest inquiry are the victims.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts
visits Lewis & Clark Law School
I don’t know what is worse, a university law school that has a public relations department, a public relations department that thinks it has the authority to censor news, a public relations flack who doesn’t understand the difference between news and promotional materials, or quiescent cub reporter students who allow themselves to be censored and are so ill-informed that they actually believe the Justice Department controls press coverage of the Supreme Court – all shielded by a law school dean’s offhand, milk toast reaction.  So much is wrong.  This is about a law school squelching speech, an institution where one might reasonably believe the administration has a passing acquaintance with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and its prohibitions on abridging freedom of the press, and the underlying principles thereof. 
In early April, Chief Justice John Roberts visited the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon to observe arguments related to an environmental moot court advocacy competition.

Naturally, as The Oregonian reports, undergraduate journalist Anthony Ruiz wanted to cover the event for The Pioneer Log, the private school’s student-run weekly newspaper. He wrote a generally flattering article about the judge’s visit to the 80th-ranked law school in all the land (says U.S. News).

School officials then apparently strongly encouraged the newspaper not to publish the story. The reason for the censorship? The head of an American law school wanted the Supreme Court’s press office to approve the story before it was printed. 
The players in the censorship game commented as follows,
The Pioneer Log’s editor, Pillotte, told The Daily Caller that she has serious misgivings about the incident.

“I really regret not just going ahead and publishing the story,” Pillote explained, “but I felt extremely pressured by Lise Harwin, head of public relations. She sent me an email saying that Lewis & Clark respects freedom of the press, but she said this is a special case.”

According to Pillote, Harwin also asserted that “the school was following the rules of the Justice Department.”

Harwin told The Oregonian that school officials believed that the high court would want to evaluate the story before it went to press. She called the court’s press guidelines “rigorous and fairly exhaustive.”

Klonoff [the law school dean] told the local rag that he thought the office would be concerned about details printed in the student newspaper of a private college attended by about 2,000 undergraduates.

The law school dean said he was sorry the Pioneer Log missed its deadline.

Lewis & Clark Law School
Dean Robert Klonoff
It's a miracle that anything real gets reported.  The dean’s “Oh I’m sorry, but I thought” response is incredibly pathetic.  Why would the dean allow manipulative and deceitful publicity flacks to stay on payroll other than most times they get away with tilting the news?  Lewis and Clark’s dean, if he were driven by principle and integrity, would rid the school of its censorship minded flacks and eliminate the obsequious publicity machine.  Instead life goes on and the university sausage stuffer continues to wreak havoc.

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