By: E&P Staff
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carried details last week of the rather messy divorce involving rival publisher, and conservative funder, Richard Mellon Scaife. Now attorneys for Scaife have filed court papers demanding the paper return documents related to the divorce.
The Post-Gazette has responded by not only denying that but posting multiple links on its Web site to the available documents, while removing some personal or financial details.
“Mr. Scaife has asked the court to do something unprecedented: stop a newspaper from writing about documents that were publicly available and highly newsworthy,” said David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Post-Gazette, in a statement.
“That effort is newsworthy in and of itself. As we will advise the court, such a prior restraint would be a clear violation of the First Amendment and of press prerogatives and freedoms that all newspapers cherish. In the meantime, we have posted the most significant of those documents on our Web site and will continue to evaluate whether additional postings should be made.”
Scaife is owner/publisher of the Pittsburgh daily, The Tribune-Review, and longtime funder of conservative causes.
The Post-Gazette pointed out this his “attempt to make court documents inaccessible is unusual for the head of a news organization. Historically, newspapers and television stations have fought for greater rather than more restricted access. In fact, Mr. Scaife’s Tribune-Review joined other organizations in seeking to unseal the estate records of the late Sen. John Heinz during the presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry, who is married to Sen. Heinz’s widow, Teresa.”
The paper had reported that Scaife’s wife was to get over $750,000 a month in payments and that a huge dispute continued — over a dog, including “dognapping” charges.
Scaife’s filing “appears to strike at the heart of the First Amendment by attempting to impose a prior restraint on the Post-Gazette’s ability to use documents that came into the public domain,” said Post-Gazette attorney W. Thomas McGough Jr. in an article in the paper.
The paper revealed: “The Scaifes filed for divorce Feb. 8. The court ordered the documents sealed in March, but, according to Prothonotary Michael Lamb, the seal was broken Aug. 28 when an employee in his office may have neglected to make the necessary computer step when scanning in a new filing in the case. The window remained open for several days after that, he said.”