Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
For 40 years Howard K. Smith had chalked up as "a typical Nazi act" the night jackbooted stormtroopers burst in upon him, then a young UPI reporter manning the Berlin bureau, to ransack every desk in the office.
Brandishing a search warrant and flexing considerable muscle, they were protesting one reporter's stories about bombing damage in Hitler's Germany, stories they claimed "misrepresented" the extend of the damage.
The incident had been a costly one, Smith told a crowded National Press Club ballroom Tuesday night where more than 400 journalists assembled for a First amendment Rally. The bureau lost all its confidential sources ("And in a totalitarian country you lean on confidential sources heavily," he said) and for some time to follow was reduced to transmitting little more than official Nazi communiques.
It might have been just another footnote in the career of the American Broadcasting Co. no commentator - until two months ago when the Supreme Court ruled that police may conduct surprise search warrant news-room raids, "a Nazi-like ruling," said Smith, "and precisely what the Nazi did to us."
What some journalists like Smith see as nothing threats to the First Amendment prompted Tuesday's rally. Proceeds from the $10 admission fee bolster the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and eight-year-old watchdog group dedicated to collecting information about the media and the law.
"The First Amendment," said Jack D. Landau, the committee's executive director, "is under severe siege. In six weeks, the Supreme Court has said police can search and rifle files, the New York Times has been fined $100,000 and its reporters jailed because they refused to turn over 5,000 documents, and the U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that the government can seize telephone records of any news organization in order to find out to whom reporters are talking.
Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, one of four principal speakers, cautioned that "uncomfortable and unpopular fights" may be ahead.
Joining her on the program were A. M. Rosenthal, executive editor of The New York Times; Jack Nelson, Washington bureau chief of The Los Angeles Times: New York Times reporter M. A. Farber and political satirist Mark Russell.