Since Independence Day I have been preoccupied with Section 34. The alert from my sources of an alleged plot, its outline and promises, and the naïve hope of the plotters that Section 34 would slip by quietly, publicly unnoticed, distracted me from the passing of Arthur Ochs "Punch" Sulzberger, the celebrated publisher of The New York Times.
The Sulzberger name carries legendary status in American journalism, having been associated with the great New York Times for nearly a century. But it was "Punch" who is considered as the man who changed not just American journalism but allowed the profession, world-wide, to make one of its most historic marks.
It was he who made the decision in 1971 to stand up to the US government and to publish the Pentagon Papers, the voluminous history of America's secret involvement in the Vietnam war.
The publication of the Papers, detailing clearly how the US government had been lying to its own people about its military build-up in south-east Asia, is considered a monumental contribution not just to journalism, but set a new standard for press freedom everywhere.
Time magazine described Sulzberger as "a man with a deep sense of decency, and profound common sense who also had guts.
"It took great courage to publish the classified documents in defiance of the government, which was a seminal moment for American journalism."
I regret not having met Sulzberger; the round of courtesy calls that I was scheduled to make at the Times was cancelled on the very morning because of a strike.
But I still remain grateful to the Sulzberger name, the Times, and the Inter-American Press Association for their promotion of my education in the US.
It was "Punch's" father, Arthur, who established a journalism foundation with generous endowments to Columbia University and other universities to assist working journalists.
It was that foundation which allows me to carry my award proudly today as a New York Times Arthur Hays Sulzberger Fellow. I did not go to Arthur's favourite school, but chose, instead the historic, and more prestigious Walter Williams School, founded in 1917, at the University of Missouri.
Arthur died in 1968, but is said to be still alive in the NYT's newsroom. His acerbic quips are memorable; his best line for me remains: "We journalists tell the public which way the cat is jumping. The public will take care of the cat."
The truths within that quip may have encouraged the NYT's competitor, the Washington Post, in the same period to pursue relentlessly the Watergate break-in — first an innocuous news story, which exploded into the jailing of the US attorney-general, "the law and order" John Mitchell, and resignation of president, Richard Nixon.
Last week, I spent some time reflecting on Mitchell's time in office. Significantly, Nixon, as president, made an unprecedented request to the FBI not to do any background checks on Mitchell before his appointment.
As AG Mitchell is remembered for his shrill calls for the US government to impose law and order. He imposed heavy restrictions on the civil liberties of American protestors; he encouraged police wire-tapping without court orders; claimed the right of the US government to round up criminal suspects into preventative detention, and brought criminal charges against critics of the Nixon administration.
In 1977, Mitchell, no longer attorney-general, was convicted along with 43 others for their role in the Watergate plot. He served 19 months in prison.
That plot, we should remember, was exposed through the dogged reporting of two young reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Post who discovered that the simple break-in and the attempts to cover it up led all the way the US Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA and the White House.
That kind of doggedness is demanded of all journalists, but more so those who at present cover the daily "beats" here in Trinbago, particularly since the international media have expressed concerns about the People's Partnership Government's performance.
The International Press Institute, meeting in Vienna recently, completed a report on "Criminal Defamation in Trinidad and Tobago", calling for the improvement of official responses under the Freedom of Information Act.
Official concerns also came from the French-based organisation, Reporters Without Borders which called on the Government to establish an independent commission of enquiry into the leaking of the personal phone records of Guardian reporter, Anika Gumbs-Sandiford, to the Chaguaramas Development Authority.
It expressed its outrage at what it considered "the domestic espionage" here in Trinbago, citing National Security Minister Jack Warner's decision to deny the media official crime statistics, and an e-mail smear campaign against reporters Denyse Renne and Asha Javeed.
Section 34 demands my preoccupation in spite of the "official dance" of counter-claims of PNM financial abuse, and finger-pointing as a ruse to deflect from its real intent and away from all the persons involved.
Working journalists should always remember "Punch" Sulzberger as they use reporting of Watergate as the yardstick for Section 34.
• Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed
a career in communication