According to a news report, West Virginia Public Broadcasting has let a reporter go following pressure from the Department of Health and Human Services. DHHR officials were upset over the reporter’s in-depth coverage of the abuse of people with disabilities who are in state care.
This news comes one week after another story about silencing journalists by another state official – Doug Skaff. Skaff is both the House Minority Leader and president of HD Media, the corporate entity that owns the Charleston Gazette-Mail. That story also found that Skaff had directed employees to delete coverage of his gambling scandal from 2015 from the newspaper’s website (an allegation Skaff did not deny when reached for comment) and that he interfered with a story about alleged police brutality in his hometown of South Charleston.
Freedom of the press under the First Amendment is essential to our democracy. It serves as a vital check on the government and helps to ensure the public knows what government is up to. When public officials meddle in journalists’ right to do their job, we are perilously close to a government that operates in secret.
The abuse of power and infringement on the press's freedom to report deserves a full and transparent inquiry. We should look with renewed scrutiny at bureaucrats and politicians who moonlight as news directors.