Friday, September 20, 2013

No secrets

     Federal and state laws decree that most law enforcement and court documents are public records.

     That’s how the Jackson Hole News & Guide recently reported that Republican Liz Cheney, who wants to unseat GOP incumbent U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi in 2014, paid $220 after being cited for a false statement on her status as a state resident when she purchased a fishing license.

     Cheney, a lawyer, said she didn’t know Wyoming law requires a year of residency prior to obtaining a resident fishing license, which is cheaper than a non-resident license.

     The story prompted her to lash out at the newspaper’s editor and to say, “Newspapers are dying, and that’s not a bad thing.” She called on her supporters to talk to 10 of their friends instead of reading the newspaper.

     Cheney’s ire suggests it wasn’t fair to report the citation. Fair to whom? As a candidate for office, Cheney is a public figure who’s asking Wyoming residents to put their trust in her character and competency, so both are matters of public interest and importance.

     Good news organizations report what they find and they don’t keep secrets. In Cheney’s world, “news” would be word of mouth. Anyone who played the game “Gossip” as a child knows how that turns out. It’s no way to get solid information.

     Would the nation be better off without newspapers to report the actions and utterances of public officials as she suggested? Should it be populated only by “news” organizations whose business is adulation and partisanship instead of holding public officials to a high standard? We think not.

     Cheney should have followed the lead of Idaho’s Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo. When he was cited for driving under the influence, he admitted the crime and faced the legal consequences without trying to shuck the blame off on the messenger.

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