Who is a Journalist? The concept of a free press applies to all forms of communication. The First Amendment’s protects speech and expression and enabling everyone to engage in an uninhibited debate. Constitutionally, the government cannot legally define who is entitled to act as a journalist or who can gather and disseminate news. Furthermore, the First Amendment explicitly forbids Congress to single out the news media for regulation or punishment that would not be imposed on others.

Media Access. The First Amendment provides a right to gather news… However, some courts have found that news media have no constitutional right of access to places where the general public is excluded.  Most states allow public access to courts, allowing the press (whether or not they're writing for an online publication) the same right of access as the public.

Oregon Public Record Laws require meetings of public bodies to be open and public. This includes meetings by county and city agencies, school districts, agency boards, commissions, committees, and the like. Under limited circumstances, the agency can conduct a closed meeting (such as for addressing certain personnel issues).

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), provides access to public records held by federal agencies. Members of the news media are entitled to a fee waiver.

Censorship that requires a person to seek governmental permission in the form of a license or imprimatur before publishing anything constitutes prior restraint every time permission is denied. Prior restraint has often taken the form of an injunction or other governmental order prohibiting the publication of a specific document or subject.

Confidentiality. Journalists' interaction with sources sometimes involves confidentiality.

  • State and federal Shield Laws provide legal protection for journalists, allowing them to keep private the names of their confidential sources and the unpublished information provided by the sources, even when demanded by police or prosecutors. This protects the anonymity of news sources and thus helps encourage the free flow of information.
  • Reporters enjoy no special rights, however, beyond those of every citizen but sometimes the government may choose to recognize special privileges for journalists. This may be as simple as granting reporters the right to access upon presentation of a “press pass” or affirmation of their journalistic intent. Some government agencies have established procedures for obtaining press credentials (a means of identifying yourself as a journalist). Government agencies are prohibited from deciding arbitrarily whether you are entitled to a press credential, and are required to publish the standards used. 


The First Amendment and the Communications Act bar the FCC from telling stations how to select material for news programs, or prohibiting the broadcast of an opinion on any subject.  The FCC does not review anyone’s qualifications to gather, edit, announce, or comment on the news; these decisions are the station licensee’s responsibility.   However, there are two issues related to broadcast journalism that are subject to FCC Commission regulation:  hoaxes and news distortion.

Hoaxes.  The broadcast by a station of false information concerning a crime or catastrophe violates the FCC's rules if:
  1. The station licensee knew that the information was false;
  2. Broadcasting the false information directly causes substantial public harm; and
  3. It was foreseeable that broadcasting the false information would cause such harm.

In this context, a “crime” is an act or omission that makes the offender subject to criminal punishment by law, and a “catastrophe” is a disaster or an imminent disaster involving violent or sudden events affecting the public.  The broadcast must cause direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties, and the public harm must begin immediately.  If a station airs a disclaimer before the broadcast that clearly characterizes the program as fiction and the disclaimer is presented in a reasonable manner under the circumstances, the program is presumed not to pose foreseeable public harm.  Additional information about the hoax rule can be found on the FCC’s website.

News Distortion.  As public trustees, broadcast licensees may not intentionally distort the news:  the FCC has stated that “rigging or slanting the news is a most heinous act against the public interest.”  The Commission will investigate a station for news distortion if it receives documented evidence of such rigging or slanting, such as testimony or other documentation, from individuals with direct personal knowledge that a licensee or its management engaged in the intentional falsification of the news.  Of particular concern would be evidence of the direction to employees from station management to falsify the news.  For additional information about news distortion, see the FCC website.

Political Broadcasting Candidates for Public Office. In recognition of the particular importance of the free flow of information to the public during the electoral process, the Communications Act and the Commission’s rules impose specific obligations on broadcasters regarding political speech.

Equal Opportunities. The Communications Act requires that, when a station provides airtime to a legally qualified candidate for any public office (federal, state, or local), the station must “afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office.”  The equal opportunities provision of the Communications Act also provides that the station “shall have no power of censorship over the material broadcast” by the candidate.  The law exempts from the equal opportunities requirement appearances by candidates during bona fide news programming, defined as an appearance by a legally qualified candidate on a bona fide newscast, interview, or documentary (if the appearance of the candidate is incidental to the presentation of the subject covered by the documentary) or on–the–spot coverage of a bona fide news event (including debates, political conventions and related incidental activities).


A journalist is someone dedicated to seeking the truth. A privileged role necessary to convey public information, ideas and opinions. Journalists’ core commitment is to determine, interpret and deliver the “truth”.  Principled journalists have a duty to be: Independent, Truthful, Fair and Accountable. Above all, operate as trustees of the public, seek the truth, report it fairly and with integrity and independence, and stand accountable for their actions. The descriptions of ethics below are ideals to strive for.

  • Independent. The most basic rule of the ethical journalist is independence from government. History shows that all too often the government acts not in the public interest but some entrenched commercial interests or to defend the power of officials or politicians. It is therefore a primary function of a free press is to serve as a watchdog of government, responsible to the public good, and not to political or business interests. Do not allow payment gift or other advantage to undermine accuracy fairness and independence.  When conflict of interest exists, disclose.
  • Truthful. Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Distinguish between factual information, advocacy, and commentary and from advertising. Do not suppress relevant available facts, nor give distorting emphasis. Any manipulation likely to mislead should be disclosed. Ensure sources and quotes from both sides of an argument are included in articles to avoid being biased towards either side. Ensure facts are correct by getting verification from multiple sources. Avoid reporting based solely on speculation, hunches or wild guesses.  When publishing questionable information, indicate that it is questionable and why.
  • Fair. We have the duty to our sources to be honest and fair. Strive to minimize harm. Get all sides of a story. Offer equal opportunity for all sides of an issue. Provide a medium for the disenfranchised and those who traditionally have no access to mainstream media. Make every effort and opportunity for comment or reply.  Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information. Keep confidences given in good faith, and look for alternative attributable sources.  Do not allow personal beliefs or commitments to undermine accuracy, fairness and independence. Where relevant, disclose.
  • Accountable.  Accountability engenders trust. Without trust, journalists cannot fulfill their public responsibilities. Admit mistakes and correct them promptly. Invite dialogue with the public over content and the conduct. Do not improperly use a journalistic position for personal gain.  Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas. Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers. Disclose any direct or indirect payment made for interviews, pictures or information. Also, journalists must not use for their own profit any information they receive in advance of its general publication, nor should they pass such information to others.



KSKQ guidelines regarding press passes, station credentials and ID’s are:

A Press Pass can provide a degree of credibility as members of the media, and protection from arrest while acting as a member of the media. It is advised that the Press Pass should not be visible while an individual is engaged in activism or creating news. Media credentials will be given to a Certified KSKQ 94.9 lpfm Producer in the following situation:

  • The producer is committed to a high level of ethics
  • The producer is committed to doing a show on a pre-specified topic
  • The press pass is necessary to gain access to information for the show.
  • The press pass is limited to that purpose 
  • The press pass is for a limited time period necessary for the show or series of shows.
  • The press pass must be returned on request.


The station manager is responsible for issuing and retrieving press passes, following KSKQ Board guidelines. Special training may be required to receive a press pass (for rallies, city/county closed door Executive Sessions, etc.).