CBS head to receive First Amendment award after retaining journalist Catherine Herridge's source documents after firing

"The RTDNA must be tone deaf to give Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews and CBS News an award for the First Amendment. It tarnishes the whole meaning of the award."

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

The CBS News head who signed off on the firing of correspondent Catherine Herridge is set to receive a free speech award in March. The outlet has also seized confidential documents from Herridge related to her reporting, which included reporting on the Hunter Biden laptop scandal and confidential sources.

CBS News president Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews will be honored at the 33rd annual First Amendment Awards on March 9 at DC’s Watergate Hotel, with the outlet head being selected by the Radio Television Digital News Association for the award, according to the New York Post.

One journalist told the outlet, "The RTDNA must be tone deaf to give Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews and CBS News an award for the First Amendment. It tarnishes the whole meaning of the award."

Dan Shelly, president of the RTDNA said, "The Foundation selected Ciprián-Matthews for her commitment to excellent and ethical journalism, especially at a time when the stakes are so high. Her leadership during some of the most challenging news stories in American history is a testament to the power of journalism."

CBS parent company Paramount announced last week that it would be laying off around 800 people, which included around 20 from CBS News. 

A CBS source told the outlet that the decision to fire Herridge came from the higher-ups in the Washington DC bureau, where Herridge was based. They added that Ciprian-Matthews and other CBS executives approved of the decision.

"This restructuring does not in any way reflect on or diminish Ingrid’s well-deserved and outstanding journalistic record," a CBS News representative said, adding that Ciprian-Matthews is "a highly regarded executive with decades of experience upholding the highest values of journalism."

“Ms. Herridge was one of more than 800 people impacted on Feb. 13 at Paramount and dozens more from other news organizations enduring mass layoffs in Washington in the last few months including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Vice, Vox, the Messenger and more,” the rep continued.

This comes as CBS News has seized confidential personal files from its former reporter Catherine Herridge who had been investigating the infamous Hunter Biden laptop scandal. 

Staffers said they are concerned about the network having taken possession of Herridge's personal files, claiming that they might include the identities of confidential sources and materials, and conversations with lawyers.

CBS staffers said that they are concerned about the network being subpoenaed to disclose the former reporter's sources, which they say could threaten freedom of the press.

"They never seize documents [when you’re let go]," a source told the outlet. "They want to see what damaging documents she has."

"This is a company that only plays checkers. They don’t play chess," the source added. "They don’t understand the ramifications of their actions."

The House Judiciary Committee has since launched a probe into the seizure of the documents, and demanded in a letter to the company who at CBS or Paramount "made the decision to terminate" Herridge, according to the New York Post.

Paramount Global senior vice president and associate general counsel Randa Soudah wrote in a response letter that Herridge’s termination was "part of a widely-reported reduction in staff that affected all divisions." She did not answer the question of who made the termination decision.

She cited company policy in the letter, and stated that Herridge’s files belonged to the network.

A Paramount lawyer wrote that "contrary to several false press reports, absolutely none of Ms. Herridge’s files were ‘seized.’ Rather, CBS acted to secure and protect the material in Ms. Herridge’s office."

The lawyer also cited company policy, stating that the files were "materials that belong to the company," adding that the employment agreement states that "all materials created or developed by Artist is the sole and absolute property of CBS."

“Consequently, there was nothing unusual about the company’s intention to segregate materials that Ms. Herridge developed or worked on for CBS News – and which belonged to the company – from any items that belonged to her,” the lawyer added.

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