Posts Tagged ‘Department of Labor’

Changing the story behind freedom of information through peer pressure

In an article on changing corporate culture, strategic adviser Peter Bregman suggests the power of peer pressure to affect far-reaching change within the culture of a business .  Bregman cites a study by Leann Lipps Birch that showed children’s preferences for foods they disliked increased when they saw their peers eating the same foods.  Using this as a launching pad, he suggests the best way to change the culture of a company is to do positive, story-worthy things, or showcase those who are making positive efforts, and change the stories being told. Once people hear positive stories about their agency, they are more likely to follow suit.

We live by stories. We tell them, repeat them, listen to them carefully, and act in accordance with them. – Peter Bregman

What does this have to do with freedom of information? A look through stories in recent media shows that some public bodies and government officials are still less than excited to cooperate with the public’s demand for greater transparency and access to information. For example,  the House Committee for Government Oversight and Reform recently to investigated questionable Department of Labor policies that would affect media outlets. Additionally, committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) questioned Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the  ‘Fast and Furious’ operation.  These show public bodies need to shift from secrecy to transparency, ideally sparking a change among requesters — from suspicion to cautious trust.

However, there are still those who work to further government transparency, effectively changing the nature of the stories being told. For instance:

  • Maurice Frankel, a freedom of information expert in the United Kingdom, is using the power of peer pressure to force change in his corner of the world. In a recent article, he offered The Netherlands’ punitive measures as an example of what can be done in instances of  freedom of information violations. Adding insult to injury, FOI violators may be subject to fines of 30 euros daily for late responses to FOI requests, to be paid directly to the requester. Fines can reach a maximum of 1260 euros. Frankel adds that The Netherlands FOI laws are currently under review, so the efficacy of these punitive measures may soon be known.
  • Rosemary Agnew, Scotland’s  Information Commissioner,  is looking for ways to inexpensively train public bodies. Agnew is trying to help public bodies  respond correctly to requests when they’re first made, effectively freeing up resources in the process.  Agnew has experience with responding to freedom of information requests. She found training to be expensive, and is working to find ways to make training more affordable and accessible to all employees in the public sector.

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email – –  or on twitter – @whitevs7

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Media and FOI advocates object to proposed Department of Labor policy restricting press access

Members of the press and freedom of information advocates spoke out Wednesday, June 6, against a proposed Department of Labor policy requiring credentialed media to use government-owned computers and software when reporting on embargoed DOL data.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called the policy into question during the hearing called by the House Committee for Government Oversight.  President Obama said that his would be the most transparent administration to date, Issa said in his opening remarks, and this policy seems to counter that claim.

Currently, select media enter a secure room to receive pre-released economic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Employment and Training Administration a half hour to an hour before the public release, allowing them time to review and write-up information.  They are then allowed to report the embargoed information using their own software.

*Update: Thanks to Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President and Bloomberg editor Steve Geimann for bringing the following to our attention in an email:  “A key aspect of the new policy is the use of government communication circuits, rather than proprietary lines installed, maintained and controlled by the media organizations.”

The new policy would require media to leave all equipment behind and use materials provided by the Department of Labor, including DOL-issued paper and writing utensils, with seating arrangements as the DOL sees necessary. Media would need to report using computers and software provided by the DOL, ostensibly preventing premature leaks of confidential information.  However, this system would allow the government to see what reporters are writing as they write.

The Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press quoted Daniel Moss, executive editor for economy and international government at Bloomberg, as testifying: “Under the DOL proposal, the government would own and control the reporters’ notebook. This is an unheard of intrusion of government into one of most cherished freedoms.”

Representatives from press entities and freedom of information advocates spoke out against this move, including Lucy Dalglish, executive director of RCFP. Daglish provided testimony.

“The media takes government interference with its work product very seriously. So does the Constitution.  In fact, the First Amendment obligates the government to allow journalists to operate independently from government control,” Dalglish said in her statement to the committee. “Requiring journalists to draft and publish stories using government-owned computers loaded with government-controlled software simply crosses a line the First Amendment clearly drew to separate the press from the government.” (Read her full testimony.)

According to The Associated Press, the media involved with the hearings said, “progress has been made,” but said little about the meetings with government officials.  The hearing also looked into the  DOL’s accuracy on reporting ‘green jobs.’

(Click here to see the DOL’s full proposal.)

Check out video of the hearing and testimonies, or read transcripts of individual testimonies from:

  • Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Rob Doherty, General Manager of Reuters News (US)
  • Daniel Moss, Executive Editor for economy and International Government, Bloomberg News
  • Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Senior Fellow, The Manhattan Institute
  • Dr. Keith Hall, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
  • John Galvin, Acting Commissioner U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Carl Fillichio, Senior Advisor for Communications and Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor
  • The Honorable Jane Oates Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor

    Correction [6/8/2012]: Daniel Moss was previously misidentified as “executive director of Bloomberg.”

    Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated with a BA in Communications, with a print journalism emphasis, from Brigham Young University. Connect with her via email – –  or on twitter – @whitevs7.






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