September 28th, 2009
FOI Committee meeting recap and 2009-10 action plan
By Billy O'Keefe
FOI Committee meeting recap and 2009-10 action plan
SPJ national conference
Aug. 29, 2009
David Cuillier, Kelly Hawes, Carol Cole-Frowe, Carolyn Carlson, Frank Gibson, Charles Davis, Jodi Cleesattle, David Chartrand, Sonny Albarado, Kevin Smith
Two folks have volunteered to join the crew: Carol Cole-Frowe, a freelancer from Oklahoma, and Sonny Albarado, a projects editor from Arkansas and longtime regional director (assuming Kevin Smith approves – committee members and chairs serve at the behest of the president in an advisory role). Here is the complete list of members:
1. David Cuillier (chair), journalism professor, Arizona
2. Joe Adams (vice chair), editorial writer, Florida
3. Bryan Sears, political editor, Maryland
4. David Chartrand, writer, Kansas
5. Robert Leger, assistant editorial page editor, Arizona
6. Jodi Cleesattle, attorney, California
7. Carolyn Carlson, journalism professor, Georgia
8. Charles Davis, journalism professor, Missouri
9. Joel Campbell, journalism professor, Utah
10. Ana-Klara Hering Anderson, attorney, Florida
11. Donald Meyers, reporter, Utah
12. Carol Cole-Frowe, Oklahoma freelancer
13. Sonny Albarado, investigative reporter
Past year’s successes
• This year we co-sponsored the Sunshine Week national project with NFOIC and ASNE. The annual campaign was a success, as usual, in fostering access.
• The FOI Committee put together an expanded Sunshine Network, with great resources and contacts for every state. The network was supposed to be put online for Sunshine Week in March but it did not happen (following this committee meeting President-Elect Kevin Smith talked to the SPJ Webmaster, who then told David Cuillier that the pages would be online within 10 days).
• David Cuillier reported that the committee helped in a variety of access battles, including commenting on the new FERPA rules, the shield law, federal media policies and state records issues.
New business and action plan for 2009-10
• Fix FERPA. Several committee members suggested we focus on FERPA this year. The Student Press Law Center is working on developing amendments and SPJ can help by educating lawmakers and getting the word out. The Department of Education is looking like it doesn’t intend to change its rules so legislation might be the best route. Also, several committee members liked the idea of putting together a good guide for journalists and FERPA, explaining how crime records and directory information are public. Therefore, we have two proposed action items for the year:
o Action: Work with SPLC to develop and pass FERPA amendments.
o Action: Develop a guide for journalists on FERPA. Can put online. Carolyn and David Chartrand want to work on that? Others?
• Keep Sunshine Week strong. Because ASNE laid off its employee who coordinates Sunshine Week, it’s likely that SPJ could play a more important role in helping out. Charles Davis said he is trying to find out from ASNE what they are planning and whether NFOIC and SPJ can help out. Potential action item:
o Action: Help ASNE and NFOIC with Sunshine Week, potentially taking on more work this year. (David Cuillier can coordinate with Charles on this)
• Shield law follow-up. Assuming the shield law is passed this fall, Carolyn Carlson suggested SPJ keeps involved in drafting the regulations enforcing the law.
o Action: Work with Laurie Babinksi to follow the rules regarding the shield law.
• Sunshine Network update. Each year we will have to update the Sunshine Network pages to make sure the contacts and resources are still around.
o Action: Update the sunshine network pages Jan-Feb 2010. Each committee member will get his or her original states. Charles Davis said he might be able to get a grad student to help out as well. David Cuillier will coordinate again.
• FOI Training. David Cuillier mentioned the pilot FOI training project planned for spring-summer 2010. SPJ will pay for him to travel the country by car for about a month, visiting as many newsrooms, universities and chapters as possible to give FOI training and spread the gospel. If successful, this model could be integrated into the newsroom training program (e.g., in future years trainers could travel different regions in one-week bursts in the summers).
• Other initiatives. David Chartrand suggested pushing school boards to televise meetings. David Cuillier mentioned that the Criminal Justice Journalists group would like to work with SPJ and others to push for better access to federal prisons.
• Quill columns. If you have a topic you would like to write about for a FOI Toolbox column in Quill, let me know the topic and when you would like to write it. Not as huge of a need this coming year because just six issues now. These are intended to be heavy news-you-can-use columns, loaded with tips and practical step-by-step type information. They would rather not have columns discussing an issue in broad terms, or editorializing on a subject. Could tackle a subject and then provide four or five tips for doing something. Examples of columns they’ve liked include: 11 records for great features, 10 strategies for reducing copy fees (next issue), ways to make FOI relevant to readers, how to write an effective request letter, 10 closed-meeting red flags, etc. (think lists).