It's journalism's dirty little secret: Just because we have information doesn't necessarily mean we're going to use it, writes William Kole of the Associated Press for the New England First Amendment Coalition. When AP asked officials in Newtown, Ct., for the tapes of 911 calls made during last December's school massacre, it touched off a debate pitting privacy rights against the public's right to know. Newtown's police department denied the request, and the AP appealed to the state Freedom of Information Commission, which now has ordered the tapes' release.
That won't happen until courts rule on an appeal by prosecutor Stephen Sedensky, who leads the investigation into the rampage. Sedensky argues that Newtown citizens “shouldn't have to worry that their calls for help in their most vulnerable moments will become fodder for the evening news.” That's not what this is all about, Kole says. “It's not about a sensational media preying on innocents and exploiting their agony. It's about reporters getting access to recordings that could shed light on the law enforcement response to one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history. As the AP argued, “Although there is no doubt that the Sandy Hook murders were brutal and an incomprehensible act, that does not provide a basis to ignore the law.” Kole says the AP wants to review the recordings “and determine what – if any – of it would meet our standards for publication. We might wind up using little or none of it. But we have the right to see it. It's our job to ensure that law enforcement is doing theirs.”