Criticizing the critics

None of the network news chiefs were happy about testifying last week before the House of Representatives. But AP President and CEO Louis Boccardi was particularly pointed in his criticism of the hearing and its implications. An edited transcript of Boccardi's opening statement:

"The Associated Press first wants to place on the record its deep concern about the nature and scope of the Committee's inquiry into decisions made by journalists in the course of gathering and reporting the news.

"Chairman Tauzin has stated, in correspondence with executives of Voter News Service and the networks, that there are 'potential First Amendment issues raised by the nature of this inquiry.' We agree with the Chairman's assessment. There certainly are.

"AP has serious doubts that the Committee and its staff, no matter how sensitive they may be, can avoid crossing the line between appropriate government concern with the electoral process itself and, on the other hand, inappropriate government involvement with the reporting on that process by a free press.

"To put it more plainly, we believe that such an official government inquiry into essentially editorial matters is inconsistent with the First Amendment values that are fundamental to our society."