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IPFS News Link • Free Speech

CBS didn't just fire Catherine Herridge - they are silencing her

• thehill.com

A former CBS manager, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he had "never heard of anything like this." He attested to the fact that, in past departures, journalists took all of their files and office contents. Indeed, the company would box up everything from cups to post-its for departing reporters. He said the holding of the material was "outrageous" and clearly endangered confidential sources.

Herridge declined to make any public comments on her departure.

CBS also did not respond to inquiries about this.

A source within the the union, SAG-AFTRA, confirmed that it has raised this controversy with CBS and remains extremely concerned about the effect of this action on journalistic practices and source confidentiality. The union believes this is "very unusual" and goes far beyond this individual case. "It is a matter of principle," a union spokesperson added. "It is a matter of serious concern. We are considering all of our options."

The timing of Herridge's termination immediately raised suspicions in Washington. She was pursuing stories that were unwelcomed by the Biden White House and many Democratic powerhouses, including the Hur report on Joe Biden's diminished mental capacity, the Biden corruption scandal and the Hunter Biden laptop. She continued to pursue these stories despite reports of pushback from CBS executives, including CBS News President Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews.

Given the other layoffs and declining revenues, the inclusion of Herridge was defended by the network as a painful but necessary measure. But then something strange happened. The network grabbed Herridge's notes and files and informed her that it would decide what, if anything, would be turned over to her. The files likely contain confidential material from both her stints at Fox and CBS. Those records, it suggests, are presumptively the property of CBS News.

For many who have worked in the media for decades, this action is nothing short of shocking. Journalists are generally allowed to leave with their files. Under the standard contract, including the one at CBS, journalists agree that they will make files available to the network if needed in future litigation. That presupposes that they will retain control of their files. Such files are crucial for reporters, who use past contacts and work in pursuing new stories with other outlets or who cap their careers with personal memoirs.

The heavy-handed approach to the files left many wondering if it was the result of the past reported tension over stories.

Regardless of motive, the company is dead wrong.

These files may contain sources who were given confidentiality by Herridge. The company is suggesting that the privilege of confidentiality (and the material) rest ultimately with CBS. As a threshold matter, that cannot be the case with regard to files that were generated during Herridge's long stint with Fox News. Yet CBS appears to be retaining those files, too.

When sources accept confidentiality assurances, it is an understanding that rests with the reporter. It is a matter of trust that can take a long time to establish on a personal level between a reporter and a source.

It is certainly understood that the network stands behind that pledge. However, most sources understand that their identity and information will be kept protected by the reporter and only disclosed to a select group of editors or colleagues when necessary. It is the reporter who implicitly promises to go to jail to protect confidentiality -- and many have done so. Such agreements are less likely to occur if sources are told that any number of unnamed individuals, including non-journalists, could have access or custody of these files.

CBS is suggesting that it will allow unnamed individuals to rifle through Herridge's files to determine what will remain with the network and what will be returned to the reporter. That could fundamentally alter how reporters operate and how willing sources are to trust assurances that they will be protected.

CBS could be forcing a showdown with the union, which must protect not only this journalist but all journalists seeking to maintain control and confidentiality of their files.

The union may have no choice but to go to court to force CBS to protect journalistic values, including a demand for an injunction to force the company to secure these files and bar review until a court has had a chance to consider these questions of confidential and proprietary claims to the files.


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