Liberty and Security Constant Balanced in First Amendment; U.S. Nuclear Plant Face Accountability, Scrutiny

CNN Reporter Joe Johns Interviewed by HNN's Tony Rutherford
CNN Reporter Joe Johns Interviewed by HNN's Tony Rutherford
HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) - After Fox News Channel grabbed high ratings through far right driven personalities spinning the daily news,
the other 24/7 cable news channels have during prime time (and re-running prime time offerings) veered moderately left (CNN) , extreme left (MSNBC), and entertainment styled news gossip (HLN). Yet, journalistically a reporter’s commandment has been approach a story with objectivity.

Joe Johns, a distinguished Marshall University graduate and winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award , backs up keeping-them-honest , Anderson Cooper. Stressing governmental accountability, Johns explained in his keynote speech that you have to challenge statements made by sources by for instance checking the veracity of source’s quotes.

But, from television’s earliest days, audiences have allowed ‘personalities’ to affect their choice for watching news.

“There have always been a preference for journalists in specific areas,” Johns said, explaining that Tim Russert who moderated NBC’s “Meet the Press” hired him into his first network news position. For instance, some viewers liked Russert’s “way of asking questions,” explaining that such distinctions go back to Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow.

Favoring a ‘personality,” can mean in Johns words, going to a news outlet which has someone “trusted and respected,” adding “who am I to question that.”

However, the choice of news anchor based on presentation style places an objectivity and opinionated balancing act on the person delivering the news. Johns admits to a “slow realization” during his career , “you can’t always be objective depending upon where you come from. There are subjects when you have to put your cards on the table and say this is how I feel. I try to stay away from opinion and stick to facts.”

The Emmy Award winning journalist spoke about the multiple Middle Eastern countries demanding freedom from generations of dictatorial control. Egyptians, Syrians and others have faced death for expressing their opinions. The internet has encouraged more people to “blog” and seek out others who share views.

Yet, in the United States, the free speech climate following the September 11 terrorists attacks has undergone heightened scrutiny. Where voicing an idle ‘threat’ once meant nothing except needing time to cool off, a similar statement in the wrong place at a politically sensitive time could become equal to shouting fire in a crowded auditorium.

Establishing the Department of Homeland Security and its controversial airline passenger search methods has led to privacy and nationality challenges. So have unduly violent essays by middle and high school students.

Have Americans ‘lost’ part of their First Amendment protections since the airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon?

“I think [former] Chief Justice William Rehnquist who said, ‘in times of war civil liberties contract and you have fewer of them than during times of peace.,’ Johns explained. He agreed that free expression and the interpretation of the edges of freedoms “swing” as a pendulum with a “balance” necessary between “liberty and security.”

Although First Amendment rights in public have contracted, Johns pointed to the internet as a location where abundant viewpoint flourish. “I do know that what’s different from past year is the [wide availability] of information. To that extinct, the First Amendment is robust and healthy.”

Natural disasters --- in Japan and the United States --- has added another issue to the overcrowded plates of government regulators and law makers.

Having written a story proposal a day following the Japanese earthquake, Johns revealed, “this is a great test for the nuclear power industry. It’s going to become a story about how nuclear power is safe and we do not have to worry , or , that you can trust nuclear power because the plants don’t hold, radiation leaks and you have [the possibility] of another Chernobyl.”

He believes that the destruction and fallout from Japan raises United State nuclear “accountability questions,” referring in specific to plants on the West Coast which is also prone to earthquakes. Despite the vulnerabilities, the week of strong tornados in the South, demonstrated that certain back up systems worked when the wind knocked out power. For that matter, the Portsmouth/Piketon, Ohio area endured tornado force winds and at the former Gaseous Diffusion Plant 25,000 cylinders of spent U6 and plutonium fuel rest awaiting a destructive force that could whirl around as deadly projectiles/

Personally, the CNN reporter won’t ask, “Is this the end of nuclear power, “ explaining “when you reach a level of technology and the cat is out of the bag, you can’t go back. The question for a long time will be how do [operators, contractors, and the government] make it safe. How do you get rid of the vulnerabilities and make it work.”


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