Jay Seaton talks about fake news and press freedom

Colorado Press Association: Jay Seaton, publisher of The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, is a timely choice for a Q&A session, given the current climate swirling in the newspaper industry around the topic of “fake news.” A lawyer as well, he and his newspaper recently found themselves in a dispute with legal implications with a state senator on that issue, with resolution yet to come. Here is Seaton’s take on his newspaper, the industry and the major issues facing both at this time:

(Editor’s note: Seaton has decide to not sue since the time of writing. Click here for an update.

Q1: Let’s get right to it. In February, an editorial in your newspaper asked that State Sen. Ray Scott (R-District 7 and who served as a regional field director for Donald Trump’s campaign in Colorado) help advance a bill that would modernize CORA, the Colorado Open Records Act (specifically to require government agencies to release digital copies of documents in a machine-readable format, if available).

He responded by tweeting (in part): “We have our own fake news in Grand Junction. The very liberal GJ Sentinel is attempting to apply pressure for me to move a bill … You may have a barrel of ink but it just splashed in your face.”

You responded quickly with talk of a libel lawsuit. In addition to the open records topic, this local slant on this national issue encompasses the definition of fake news, First Amendment rights and responsibilities, even legislative immunity. What is your current take on all this, and what is the current status of legal action against Sen. Scott?

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