Letter: Freedom of the press is still protected by The First Amendment

To the Editor:

I have come to expect any article, letter or statistic that differs with the views of the Herbst administration will be met with reflexive caustic response. However, emails from the first selectman and Letter to the Editor by Jack Testani, questioning the journalistic integrity of the Trumbull Times and Kathy Champion are the most ridiculous and egregious to date.

Recently asked by Steve Coulter of the Trumbull Times to contribute an article concerning education and reaction to the US News and World Report rankings, Kathy Champion offered a thorough, well written article that appeared on the front page. She referenced statistics taken directly from the report. The headline was chosen by the paper. The only thing wrong with the article was that it did not portray the picture of perfection the Herbst administration would paint. A nasty email accusing impropriety was sent to the Trumbull Times with multiple people on copy. When that did not yield the intended response, further emails and a letter by Jack Testani attempting to discredit Kathy followed.

Little do they know. Kathy is an award winning journalist. Working with ABC News, she won a Peabody Award in 2001 for coverage of 9/11. She won a National Headliner Award in 2005 for her series entitled, “Road to the White House” which was also nominated for an Edward R. Murrow award, but lost to Dan Rather. Kathy was first to secure an interview with Brigadier General Kimmet during Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to Abu Ghraib as the Iraq conflict unfolded. She travelled with George Stephanopolous and then-Senator Joe Biden covering a UN event, “The People Speak”. While producer for Sam Donaldson’s radio show, she interviewed George H.W Bush, Jimmy Carter, Colin Powell, Madeline Albright, and countless Senators and US Representatives. She was the red carpet producer for the 2005 Academy Awards.  Then she spent three years as a general assignment producer with ABC News Television managing daily stories covering everything from natural disasters, presidential elections, national crime stories to producing the well known daily segments “Medical Minute” and “Business Minute.” There is no question about Kathy’s journalistic integrity.

A journalist was asked by The Trumbull Times to write an article about public reaction to the US News and World Report High School rankings list on which Trumbull does not appear. The journalist’s political affiliation or involvement has no bearing on this piece. A good journalist writes so that the reader does not know their personal opinions. That’s exactly what the journalist did. Freedom of the press is protected by The First Amendment. The only question of integrity lies in the administration’s response. Mr. Herbst’s attempts to exert influence over local media and intimidate those who offer differing perspective are disturbing, and fundamentally at odds with the principles on which our country was founded. There can be no tolerance for such actions. I suggest Tim and Jack refocus their energy to address the true issue: why Trumbull Schools fall short of the list and how we work together to improve.
Lainie McHugh