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Parson’s treatment of reporter is unacceptable
The Missouri State Highway Patrol does not want to pursue criminal charges against a reporter who discovered a serious flaw four months ago in a state website.
While Gov. Mike Parson has demanded the reporter be arrested, accusing the St. Louis Post Dispatch of trying to embarrass him with their reporting, the MSHP released a 158-page investigative file that found no evidence of computer hacking or anything resembling it.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again now, the fact that a U.S. politician would pursue criminal charges to silence a journalist is disturbing.
That is the action that is the most embarrassing for the governor.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Josh Renaud was researching an unrelated story when he stumbled across a section of a public website that revealed hundreds of Missouri teachers’ social security numbers in the HTML code. This code was visible and available to any member of the public who visited the site.
Renaud did not rush to report on the matter. He did the responsible thing and reached out to state officials. He said he wouldn’t publish an article until the matter was corrected.
State education officials originally planned to thank Renaud. In an Oct. 12 email, Margie Vandeven, the education commissioner, said, “We are grateful to the member of the media who brought this to the state’s attention,” in a proposed press release.
The next day, the Office of Administration instead issued a news release calling Renaud a “hacker.”
The issue with the website had existed since 2011. It wasn’t created under Parson’s administration and it had been there during two prior administrations.
And yet, rather than investigating the source of the problem and any possible harm to our state’s teachers, our governor chose instead to spend months investigating the reporter who uncovered the problem.
“The governor decided to blame a government failing on the reporter who discovered it,” Katherine Jacobsen, program coordinator with the Committee to Protect Journalists, told the Missouri Independent.
This is not behavior we should support or find acceptable here.