Monday, April 13, 2009

Regulate Me!

My father sent me this story earlier today: OSHA fines newspaper for reporter's fall down stadium stairs.

The long and short of it: A Buffalo reporter covering a high school football game hit his head and fell down a steep metal staircase while attempting to the enter the stadium's press box. Tragically, the reporter was paralyzed and later died from his injuries.

But hold on, here comes OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration), with fines totaling over $31,000 not for the stadium or the public schools, but for the newspaper where the reported had worked. Yes, apparently the government agency charged with worker safety believe that it is the responsibility of newspapers to ensure that their reporters only report from locations that meet the appropriate OSHA building requirements. As the editor of the Buffalo news pondered in the piece, what does this say for reporters who cover war zones? The piece ponders what this means for the future of all the various sorts of employees who work at off-site locations, but what about newspapers in general? Regulations are traditionally difficult to challenge when they are passed under a broad grant of rule making power, such as that granted to OSHA, but I wonder if fines like this raise a legitimate free speech issue? After all, how is a newspaper supposed to report the news if OSHA fines are threatened every time a reporter leaves the news room?


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