Posts Tagged ‘Washington D.C.’


FOI Daily Dose: Illinois attorney clarifies public records ruling; National Press Club debates practices of public affairs offices

Illinois attorney clarifies public records ruling

An Illinois attorney clarified a public records ruling issued July 16 by the Fourth District Appellate Court, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The ruling said emails and text messages sent during public meetings about public business are public records.

But Peter Friedman, a Lake Bluff village attorney and a partner at Holland & Knight, clarified that the ruling does not apply to any electronic communications not pertaining to public business or those sent outside of board meetings.

“The appellate court correctly determined that private electronic communications outside the context of a board meeting are not public records under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act),” Friedman told the Tribune.

 National Press Club debating practices of federal public affairs offices

The National Press Club in Washington, DC,  is hosting a panel on Aug. 12 to debate whether federal public affairs practices are more of a hindrance or a help to reporters.

Public affairs offices typically require reporters to go through the press office to arrange interviews.

Those skeptical of the process complain that it limits who they interview. They are also frustrated that some companies require members of the communications team to be present with employees during their interview, according to the Press Club.

Other people feel public affairs professionals ensure that the press gets accurate information and a coherent message.

The debate will feature a panel of experts on both sides of the issue. The panel will be moderated by John M. Donnelly, chairman of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Committee and a senior writer with CQ Roll Call.

Panel experts include:

  • Linda Petersen: Managing editor, The Valley Journals of Salt Lake; chairwoman SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee; and president of the Utah Foundation for Open Government
  • Carolyn Carlson: Former AP reporter; past SPJ national president; assistant professor of communication at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta; and author of two surveys on the relationship between public affairs staff and the press
  • John Verrico: President-elect of the National Association of Government Communicators
  • Kathryn Foxhall: Freelance reporter who has extensively researched the issue

FOI Fail of the Week: Two reporters arrested at D.C. public meeting

Even at a public meeting, journalists aren’t always free to report a story as they see fit.

U.S. Park Police officers arrested two reporters at a June 22 Taxi Commission meeting in Washington, D.C. A commission staff member told the officers to make the arrests, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Peter Tucker of thefightback.org was arrested for taking photographs of the meeting, while Jim Epstein of Reason TV was later arrested for filming the initial arrest.

Check out Epstein’s personal account of the incident.

They were arrested for “disorderly conduct and unlawful entry.” But “unlawful entry” of a public meeting?

D.C.’s open meetings law doesn’t include specific provisions addressing the photographing or filming of public meetings, according to a Washington Post blog.

Unless taking photos or video of a public meeting specifically violates an area’s public meetings law, reporters shouldn’t be punished – and certainly shouldn’t be arrested – for doing so.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI Links of the Day 6.09.10

Mid-week FOI links, courtesy of SPJ:

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