Regular Sleepless in Midland readers know all about the Midland, Texas, city code prohibition against the use of police radio scanner traffic.
So it was interesting to see a front page article in the Midland Reporter Telegram, aka the morning paper, about scanner usage by news media, including themselves. They've been doing it for years in flagrant violation of local code. Meanwhile, their editorial writers serve as public scolds.
To be fair, they say in the article that they're trying to do better and won't actually publish "scanner reports online and in the newspaper." Here's the excerpt:
The Reporter-Telegram’s has a policy against publishing local scanner reports.
“At one time, the Reporter-Telegram was one of the biggest offenders, but this is information that has not been confirmed by law enforcement authorities or journalists, which is why we stopped using scanner reports online and in the newspaper,” said Editor Stewart Doreen.
That doesn't get them off the hook. They seem only concerned with publishing the actual words heard through the scanner. However, if they use the information in any way for their benefit -- to get a lead, to further a story, to get a jump on the competition, etc. -- they've violated the code.
Here's the actual code language:
6-1-9. Police radio; interception of communications.
No solicitor, or other person, not being authorized by the City, shall intercept any communication and divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purpose, effect or meaning of such intercepted communication, and no solicitor or other person, not being entitled thereto, shall receive or assist in receiving any message emanating through the medium of KKA-662, and use the same or any information therein contained for his own benefit, or for the benefit of another solicitor or person.
(Ord. of 3-24-1953)
We've had fun with this in previous blog posts. It's a pretty good example of an antiquated law that no one has the courage to repeal. But the news media maintain a cozy relationship with government. And just like David Gregory gets away with brandishing an illegal rifle magazine on national TV, they know the government won't touch them. Laws are for the little people.
Editor's note: Could this be a prelude to an announcement that the emergency services are going to hit up city coffers for a high tech radio system that bypasses scanners? Robo-ed. | Hmm. We'll have to keep an eye out for that. Sleepless.