Bush meets with RTNDA board

President George W. Bush tells RTNDA board members that in a good society information flows to the people. White House photo courtesy Paul Morse.

Proclaiming himself to be a "First Amendment guy," President George W. Bush articulated his view of the importance of free speech in an open society while meeting June 1 with the board of directors of the Radio-Television News Directors Association.

"A free society is where people feel free without retribution to speak," he told the RTNDA board in a conference room in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House. "A good society is one where information flows to the people," he said.

"There is a struggle between what the public should know and what should be kept secret, particularly with regard to national security," he told the board. "There’s some information which could damage our ability to collect information, and that’s where the real rub has been so far from my perspective," he said.

Despite the president’s expressed support for First Amendment freedoms, he declined to endorse the Free Flow of Information Act, a bill before Congress that would protect journalists from being compelled in federal court to disclose an unnamed source.

The president also acknowledged the importance of the local news outlets during the meeting. "In all due respect to the national ‘Pooh-Bahs,’" Bush said, "most people get their news from local news. And if you’re trying to influence opinion, the best way to do it is to travel hard across the country and give the people their dues."

The interview with the president was the first for an RTNDA board of directors since 1977 when it met with President Jimmy Carter.

For more information, visit www.rtnda.org.

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