Access to public records is crucial, even if painful
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
- Johnita Due: As a mother, I understand the pain of events such as Newtown
- She says that as a media lawyer, she sees the need for the release of public records
- "We can never learn the truth about our society...without full access to public documents"
Editor's note: Johnita P. Due, assistant general counsel for CNN, manages CNN's efforts to gain access to public records and proceedings under state and federal freedom of information laws and the First Amendment.
(CNN) -- I cried several times yesterday. This happened as I was reviewing scripts for CNN's upcoming coverage of the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
I also cried as I reviewed a script about the bravery of Antoinette Tuff who single-handedly prevented a similar tragedy from occurring in a suburban Atlanta elementary school.
I have an almost 8-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son. If I had lived in Newtown, my daughter could have been in one of the first-grade classrooms that was targeted. It is heartbreaking to think of what could have been and whether my children would have survived. My heart goes out to all of those who experienced such unthinkable loss.
CNN was not involved in the Associated Press' litigation to gain release of the Newtown 911 calls, but I applaud the court's decision in support of open government and public access to government records.
Senator: 911 tapes relive tragedy
I have read and heard some of the powerful and emotional pleas of families, attorneys and their supporters who felt the 911 calls should have been withheld. Yet I fully believe that access to public records is crucial, even if painful. We can never learn the truth about our society and its ills and inspirations without full access to public documents. No matter how well-meaning public officials may be in withholding records, it should not be left to them to determine what our reality is.
As a media lawyer, it is inevitable that I will be faced with advising on painful stories and the disturbing videos, images and sound that go along with them. We filed a lawsuit for access to the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, and we have recently gone to court to gain release of all records and data relating to the death of Valdosta, Georgia, teen Kendrick Johnson.
Some images I cannot bear to look at -- or sounds to hear -- but I will do so because I know we are committed to shedding light on important stories and issues. And maybe one day those stories will make a difference and prevent future tragedies and suffering of other families.
I realize not everybody is going to agree with how CNN handled the 911 calls, but one thing we can all agree on is that we need to hug our kids tighter.
I did that as soon as I walked in the door from work yesterday evening.
Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion
Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Johnita Due.
Part of complete coverage on
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the most plausible explanation is that someone commandeered Malaysia Flight 370.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Alexander Motyl says as Russian troops mass on the border, many Ukrainians think war with Russia is inevitable.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 2159 GMT (0559 HKT)
Peter Morici says Europe must move quickly to develop its natural gas and oil industries to leverage with Russia.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Jane Velez-Mitchell says it might sound crazy, but bear with her while she explains how abuse of animals on factory farms is tied to many of our problems.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
Donna Brazile says Democrat's loss in the Florida special election was closer than expected.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 0253 GMT (1053 HKT)
Sylvia Adcock says sometimes, the crash site is never found. The search area for the Malaysia Airlines flight continues to expand — which experts say does not bode well for finding the plane.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1224 GMT (2024 HKT)
David Slayton, Mark E. Rosen: With Russia on the move, U.S. Arctic policy needs to look more at security issues.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
Les Abend says baffling as the lack of information on Malaysia 370's fate is, if the airplane fell out of the sky, it didn't happen as a result of only one factor
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1602 GMT (0002 HKT)
Andrea Purse says if Republicans want to win over women voters, they need to see them as drivers of economic growth.
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
Jim Martin says many of Pope Francis' words and deeds that have so surprised the world flow naturally from his Jesuit background
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1210 GMT (2010 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says deportees' attempt to gate-crash into the U.S. turned into "Operation Return to Sender."
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Beyonce's new video "Partition" sends a troubling message to girls who see her as a role model
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1545 GMT (2345 HKT)
Michael Oren says the rocket attacks by Islamic Jihad could trigger a bigger confrontation in the volatile Middle East.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Justin Bieber was videotaped acting like a brat at his deposition. Danny Cevallos warns him that you only hurt yourself when you bicker with the questioning attorney.
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Jonathan Guryan and Jens Ludwig say the idea that poverty keeps adolescents from thriving academically is upended by a Chicago tutoring program that shows why educators shouldn't give up
March 11, 2014 -- Updated 2044 GMT (0444 HKT)
Peter Bergen says wild theories often flourish after a passenger jet disaster; it's best to wait for an investigation
Today's five most popular stories