If you’re a reporter and want to write about an elected official, do you need to obtain permission from the politician to include their name in your news story?
Of course not. Imagine the chilling effect on journalism if people elected to positions of power could shut down media inquiries they didn’t like by denying the reporter permission to write about them.
Kirby Delauter, a county council member in Frederick County, Maryland, doesn’t agree. He took to his Facebook page yesterday to denounce a local reporter, Bethany Rodgers of The Frederick News-Post, because he “did not authorize any use of my name.” He also included this rather menacing line: “You need to know who you’re dealing with.”
To cap off his post, Mr. Delauter threatened to sue her: “Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an attorney.”
I’d like to give Mr. Delauter the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible that he doesn’t have a lot of media experience and truly believes that he has the right to prevent a journalist from using his name without his authorization. Therefore, I want to use this post to write something productive.