The Fight for Press Freedom
David. E. McCraw, the top newsroom lawyer for The New York Times, visited the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics talk about the struggle for press freedom in an age of alternative facts, and to discuss his book “Truth in Our Times.” McCraw gained national attention in 2016 when he responded to the Trump campaign after it accused The New York Times of libel, and threatened a lawsuit over the paper’s article about two women who accused Trump of touching them inappropriately. McCraw countered, saying, “Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself. “It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices,” McCraw wrote to Trump’s lawyers. “We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.” Later, in an Op-Ed article for The New York Times, McCraw said, “I have an old-school vision of the First Amendment: That journalists should tell stories straight, that readers can be trusted and that out of that process we as a country will get it right more often than not. Libel lawyers don’t serve as the fairness police. If anything, they are more like fact cops.” In his book, McCraw offers a glimpse into the inner workings of the newspaper and recalls the challenging legal obstacles he encountered on some of the most notable stories published during his tenure. McCraw, an Illinois-native, said he became interested in journalism while in high school when he heard Peter Arnett, who was covering the Vietnam War, speak. McCraw has worked at The New York Times since 2002 and holds the position of assistant general counsel and vice president. The conversation with McCraw is moderated by Charles Overby, chairman of the center. He will be joined by Greg Brock, an Overby fellow, who worked closely with McCraw at The Times for many years.
McCraw, David E.; Overby, Charles; and Brock, Greg, "The Fight for Press Freedom" (2019). Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. 122.