First, a four-man crew from CBS Evening News, led by Correspondent Peter Van Sant and Producer Randy Joyce visited San Diego in June and filmed an interview with Jim Harnsberger. They also filmed a FIJA literature distribution/ protest at the courthouse of Judge Milliken, Cal-FIJA's nemesis. Milliken was part of a group of judges from San Diego and Los Angeles which issued court orders against FIJA literature distribution at "their" courthouses. Judge Milliken was also interviewed. The CBS crew filmed an interview with Sam Skipper, who is dying of AIDS, and who was charged with cultivating marijuana, which he used as an herbal medicine to help alleviate the symptoms and increase appetite. Skipper was found not guilty, and on camera he said he believed that FIJA information in the hands of the jury accounted for his victory.
Then, the CBS crew flew to Missoula, Montana, and drove the 75 miles up to Helmville, where they filmed the FIJA headquarters operation in Don Doig's mobile home, and the town of Helmville. Then we hopped in a caravan of cars and trucks and drove up a steep unpaved mountain road to a scenic overlook above Helmville, where we set up lawn chairs and for 2 to 3 hours, Larry Dodge, Red Beckman and Don Doig were interviewed on film. (Larry's segment ended up on the cutting room floor.)
The CBS Evening News special on FIJA aired on June 19. We've received widely varying assessments of the show. Some have praised it and thought it was great. Others came away thinking it was a "hatchet job". I guess it depends on your expectations and on your interpretation of it. We thought it was good, generally. It represented a couple of million dollars worth of air time, and that's a lot of exposure; some sixteen million viewers saw it. Anchor Dan Rather was off in the ozone somewhere on his introductory promos, which promised a link with the militias, but when the show aired...nothing of the sort materialized.
Then in July, a crew from NBC Nightly News visited Helmville and filmed an interview with Larry Dodge by Senior Correspondent Fred Francis. The Producer was Tom Cheatham. They also filmed an interview with Yvonne Regas in Las Vegas and her attorney, Nancy Lord. Peyman Mottahedeh organized a literature distribution event at an Orange County, California, courthouse, with a broad spectrum of participants.
The show aired on August 1, to generally rave reviews. It was thoughtful and generally positive, though again the introduction by Anchor Tom Brokaw was slanted. At the end, they interviewed NBC's in-house legal expert, who thought FIJA's efforts would cause no harm, that we were simply telling people about powers they already have, and occasionally exercise. He also said prosecutors in Nevada would find it difficult to get a conviction in the Regas case, because they will have to show the FIJA brochure to the jury, as part of the evidence.
Interestingly, federal prosecutors and the judge in Reno apparently thought they could suppress knowledge of jury veto power by prosecuting Yvonne Regas on jury tampering charges. They miscalculated. Perhaps 20 million people saw the NBC special on FIJA, featuring her case...
The next morning it also aired on CNBC, the business channel, and on the NBC Morning News, in shortened form.