Plain Dealer union members were prepared to protest at the Cuyahoga County Courthouse last week if Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold made good on her threat to arrest PD reporter Gabriel Baird for not immediately divulging the source of leaked documents from the case of alleged serial killer Anthony Sowell.
Before Judge Timothy J. McGinty identified himself as the source, PD management allowed employees to leave work to support Baird at a Wednesday, March 17 hearing. A dozen of them, most reporters, appeared in court. Had Baird been arrested, they had 50 signs that read “Don’t shackle the press” ready for a protest outside the courthouse.
“There was a lot of concern,” says PD Newspaper Guild Chair Harlan Spector. “Reporters and editors wanted to back Gabe up. It’s a free press issue. The Guild has a strong position on that. It’s fundamental to democracy that a reporter be able to do his job without being thrown in the clink.” — D.X. Ferris