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​Is journalism still legal in America?
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​Is journalism still legal in America?

The real story of Steve Baker is what he did after January 6.

Blaze Media investigative reporter Steve Baker was arraigned Friday before a federal magistrate, accused of crimes stemming allegedly from the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Baker was not working for Blaze Media at the time. But I was eager to hire him not long after becoming editor in chief here because of what he had accomplished since that day.

In 2021, Baker was an independent journalist and online commentator — what we used to call a blogger — who would intermittently cover a variety of events and issues for his audience, often from a libertarian perspective. Even his Facebook audience in those days, roughly 40,000 followers, was larger than many a dwindling local newspaper.

Most people would have walked away from that day with a story to tell their friends. But Baker remained unrelentingly focused on the story.

And then January 6 happened.

When Baker saw the crowds entering the Capitol, he sprang into journalism mode and covered the story for his audience. The video he captured that day would eventually be used by the New York Timesand HBO, among others.

He’s now charged with four federal misdemeanors: Knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a capitol building; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a capitol building. All nonviolent offenses, but hardly trivial.

The government ascribes evil intent to Baker’s reporting. That might be worrisome if we didn’t have the videos, with much more to come thanks to the efforts of Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.). You can watch all the footage our team could find of him from CCTV that day, which we requested and obtained from Congress, combined with his own footage, here. You can judge for yourself if he’s guilty of a crime:

Steve Baker Inside the Capitol on January 6youtu.be

He is most certainly guilty of committing journalism, an act that until last week was protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution. In short, Steve Baker did not riot. He reported. He exercised his First Amendment rights.

It’s a message the corporate media might not want to hear, but they had better start listening. This isn’t about some right-wing journalist who was allegedly in a restricted area. Hundreds of other journalists were in restricted areas that day, too. And they have not been charged with a crime.

For legacy newspapers and cable news channels, the temptation is powerful either to remain silent about Baker’s case or to denounce him as just another “insurrectionist” who is trying to use his role as a reporter to shield himself from the consequences of his “crimes.”

But it’s past time to put partisanship aside. What Baker believed or didn’t believe about what happened on Election Day in 2020 doesn’t matter. He was covering the story without fear or favor. His comments and actions ever since make this clear.

And the real story of Steve Baker — the story no one has told yet — is what he did after January 6. Most people would have walked away from that day with a story to tell their friends. But Baker remained unrelentingly focused on the story.

For years after, at his own expense, Baker showed up nearly every day at the trials of many of those charged with crimes on January 6. He paid attention. He took notes. He got to know almost everyone involved. He asked questions and listened carefully to Capitol Hill Police officers, other journalists, federal officials, lawyers, defendants, and politicians and their staffs. And he earned the respect of those he encountered in various positions and across political lines because of it.

Do the remaining adults at the New York Times and the Washington Post realize that this precedent will — not potentially but certainly — be used against them?

The truth is complicated. And it takes serious effort to uncover it. The truth about January 6 is no exception to the rule. While well-paid “mainstream” journalists largely ignored the details and filed simplistic stories with loud, political headlines, Baker steadfastly did the work they refused to do.

And that’s why I gladly hired him last year to break the stories that the “credentialed” media ignored. But to this day, while outlets like the Associated Press recently covered Baker’s arrest, they refuse to mention his actual work.

Did you know that two key witnesses, both law enforcement officials at the time, in one of the most important trials of all the January 6 cases, appear to have perjured themselves? Did you know that the unjustly celebrated Capitol Hill Police Officer Harry Dunn, who wrote a book filled with lies about his experience that day, is now running for Congress?

In a just world, Steve would be receiving awards for those groundbreaking stories. Instead, he was cuffed and put into chains next to an alleged methamphetamine dealer brought up on felony charges. The government held his misdemeanor charges over his head for years, and prosecutors did not move on them until after he was hired by Blaze Media and began reporting for us. They did not even tell him what the charges were until he was needlessly handcuffed and shackled.

Do the remaining adults at the New York Times and the Washington Post realize that this precedent will — not potentially but certainly — be used against them? If Donald Trump died tomorrow, and no Republican ever won the White House again — if we lived forevermore in a national one-party state run by Democrats — does anyone seriously believe that those in power will refrain from ending the First Amendment rights of journalists they disagree with if they can get away with it?

Does anyone out there who claims to be a “centrist” or “independent” have the courage to report on the stories Steve Baker has been breaking and continues to doggedly pursue? Does anyone working in the rapidly decaying field of “mainstream” journalism, possessed of even a shred of personal integrity, have the courage to investigate the facts of this case and speak out about the dangerous precedent it is setting for freedom of speech and freedom of the press?

They might not want to see it, but they’d better open their eyes. If the Justice Department can successfully prosecute a reporter for covering an event — never mind his commentary after the fact — then nobody is safe. I.F. Stone, hero of the New Left, worked outside the mainstream media, too. He uncovered government corruption and exposed lies. And he didn’t have a press pass, either.

So where are they? Where are the editorial boards of the Washington Post and the New York Times? Where are the watchdogs at Poynter and the Columbia Journalism Review?

I don’t know. I do know this, however: They might not agree with Baker’s politics, but for their own sakes — and for the sake of our battered and divided republic — they better start paying attention.

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Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Editor in Chief

Matthew Peterson is the editor in chief of Blaze Media.
@docMJP →