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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Talk With White Separatist Brings Embarrassment for Local Reporter

He says it was a simple mistake -- an earnest blunder made while trying to help a source.

But an hourlong interview WFTS-Ch. 28 reporter Don Germaise gave last month to the webmaster of a white separatist Web site has now brought him loads of embarassment, as the group has posted a heavily edited excerpt which they say shows Germaise sympathizes with some of their views.

I have a piece in today's newspaper outlining the whole mess, which started when Germaise looked into profiling a local pro-White group after a recent incident in which some racists were accused of a stabbing murder.

David Daugherty, the webmaster for a site operated by the Tampa Unit of the National Vanguard separatist group, said he struck a bargain with Germaise: to get an interview with him, the reporter would also have to submit to an interview. Germaise denies there was quid pro quo agreement.

In the excerpts posted by Daugherty online, Germaise offers earnest if uninformed answers to some awfully leading questions regarding the Anti-Defamation League, hate speech, illegal immigration and the First Amendment (it has been particularly troublesome to see racists use recent confusion and anger over immigration issues to push their prejudice further into the mainstream).

Daugherty says he wanted to probe a journalist from the mainstream media, which he dismissed as filled with propaganda about pro-White movements and controlled by Jews. Germaise now says he made a dumb mistake, allowing himself to becoem a propaganda tool for a group whose perspectives he despises.

"They edit out all the parts where I tell them they are nuts," Germaise told me Thursday. "I should have known better."

Shield Law for Journalists on the Table Again

An impressive roster of lawmakers have lined up behind the Free Flow of Information Act of 2006, including Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Charles Schumer (D-NY). See Dodd and Lugar's op-ed on the issue here.

The act is a federal "shield law," aimed as protecting reporters from attempts by the government to force revelation of confidential sources, except for very specific instances -- say, if the reporter witnesses a crime or has information to guard against terrorism or protect national security.

Some journalists are uneasy about such laws, reasoning that if the press insists on special free speech protections we cease to become surrogates for the public -- relying on special priviledges the government can take away at any time. But prosecutors have increasingly pursued a strategy of plugging leaks about government business by compelling journalists to reveal their sources, dismantling their effectiveness as news gatherers.

Unfortunately, lawmakers had to include a national security/terrorism exemption to make passage possible in today's political climate. And the government has defined such terms so broadly, this legislation likely won't curb the highest-profile cases of confidential source excavations, including the Valerie Plame investigation and the Wen Ho Lee investigation. Journalists are pretty disappointed by the legislation, which has holes in it big enough to drive a truck through.

But as a reporter who has benefitted three times from Florida's shield law -- keeping me from having to testify in lawsuits connected to issues I have written about -- I can say pretty confidently that something is better than nothing.

Black TV Saved -- Sorta

The biggest news to come out of the revelation of the CW's programming schedule Thursday -- besides the horrible new logo and inexplicable rescue of both 7th Heaven and Reba -- was the preservation of a night of black-centered TV shows on Sunday, including the series Everybody Hates Chris, All of Us, Girlfriends, new series The Game and America's Next Top Model. Not surprisingly, every show in the evening has a superstar executive producer -- from Will Smith and Jada Pinkett to Chris Rock, Tyra Banks and Kelsey Grammer (?!).

My hunch is this was a response to the avalanche of stories predicting the demise of the black sitcom in the CW's merger of UPN and the WB. CW mastermind and CBS honcho Les Moonves is no dummy -- he knows that Sunday was one of the lowest-rated nights for the WB and so challenging for UPN that they never developed programs for the night.

So when low ratings plague the shows stuck in the CW's new black sitcom ghetto, they'll have plenty of good excuses for cancelling them later in the season. I just hope there's enough diversity elsewhere in the TV schedule to mitigate the loss.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]

    

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