Tim Crews’ good news

By: Joel Davis


Rural Northern California newspaper editor Tim Crews, winner of several journalism awards after being jailed in February for refusing to reveal sources, got more good news last week when a second subpoena seeking sources in the same case was withdrawn.
Crews, editor of the small, feisty Sacramento Valley Mirror, faced more time in jail because of his stance in refusing to divulge sources in the upcoming trial of a former California Highway Patrol officer accused of stealing a firearm in Tehama County. However, the Tehama County district attorney’s office dropped the theft charge that compelled the subpoena in favor of a different charge. This move made Crews’ testimony unnecessary.
“They will now be recalling the subpoena, and we will be done with it,” said Crews attorney Ron McIver.
Crews seemingly has been honored more times this spring than the film “American Beauty.” After spending five days in February in the Glenn County Jail in Red Bluff, Calif., he has been recognized by several organizations. Among his honors:
The James Madison Freedom Information Award from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists on March 23.
The Hofstra University/Francis Frost Wood Courage in Journalism Award at the Freedom Forum in New York last Wednesday.
The California Society of Newspaper Editors’ Bill Farr Award recognizing exemplary accomplishment with respect to “the people’s right to know,” which will be given to Crews on May 5.
The Crews case is one of several in the Western United States involving shield and access issues.
Journalist Doug Underwood, an associate professor at the University of Washington’s School of Communications, has been ordered by a Superior Court judge to surrender notes for a Columbia Journalism Review story about 18 laid-off Arizona Republic reporters who are suing the newspaper and former Managing Editor Steve Knickmeyer.
The Washington Court of Appeals is currently reviewing the lower court’s decision. Underwood is appealing on the grounds that the notes — which, unlike the Crews case, don’t involve confidential sources — are protected by the First Amendment, as Washington state has no shield law.
Defense attorneys in a separate case are also seeking notes from San Francisco Chronicle new-media columnist Dan Fost. Fost faced a $1,000-a-day fine for declining to answer questions about a murder case that he covered as a reporter for the Marin Independent Journal in Novato, Calif. The case was argued April 12 at the California Court of Appeals, and Fost is awaiting the court’s decision.
Also in California, veteran Los Angeles Times reporter Mark Arax has been allowed back in a courtroom after he was barred from the federal trial of eight Corcoran State Prison guards accused of staging fights among prisoners.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii at first denied Arax courtroom access because the defense subpoenaed him on April 18 as a potential witness.
During a brief court meeting, an L.A Times attorney argued that Arax should be allowed to stay because he’s the paper’s only writer in California’s Central Valley and because First Amendment considerations should trump the judge’s initial decision.
The judge agreed, finding that the defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial wouldn’t be jeopardized by letting Arax remain in court.

(Editor & Publisher Web Site: http://www.editorandpublisher.com)
(copyright: Editor & Publisher May 1, 2000)

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