Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

The Challenge of Disinformation

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

The Challenge of Disinformation

Article excerpt

In the age of Court TV, Hardcopy and the Internet, the judiciary is being squeezed -- and influenced -- by the onslaught of disinformation, says investigative journalist Richard Fricker.

"Instead of Monday morning quarterbacking, it's Saturday morning quarterbacking," notes Fricker, who has worked extensively for 60 Minutes, PBS Frontline and USA Today, to name a few.

The judicial system is increasingly influenced by the public's quick access to what's traditionally been relegated to legal eggheads who peruse law journals. And as networks add analysts to their staffs and devote entire programs to deciphering issues and jargon, legalese is fast becoming a language the lay person can speak. "It's a problem for the judiciary because everybody has an idea of what the evidence will mean," he says. Even so, the public's heightened awareness isn't necessarily a bad thing, Fricker says. "If this is what the First Amendment does, this is what it does." Working out of Tulsa, Fricker is a contributing editor for The Texas Observer, which has published his articles relating to Sen. Phil Gramm's savings and loan dealings. He has also written for the American Bar Association Journal, which included his exclusive interview with Yasser Arafat and his chief legal advisers. Fricker also investigated the controversial drug conviction of Jose Abello, a Colombian who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after President Reagan declared his war on drugs. For that piece, Fricker received the 1991 American Society of Business Press Editors Award for Excellence. With over 30 years of experience, Fricker says that being a top- notch ink-slinger requires one basic thing -- an inquisitive mind set. "You can learn certain things in the classroom, but it's more than that." He adds that it's a burning desire to want to know the whole story that puts investigative journalists in the best stead. "To be a good investigator, it takes the same quality as two washer women talking across the fence," he says. "You've got to have the inability to wait to tell everyone you see." But just where thorough investigation ends and obstruction of justice begins is not always a clear line, he adds. …

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