Government officials, the flacks who curry favor with them by misshaping the events of the day and out-and-out propagandists are enjoying an unprecedented boom market these days, as the citizenry watches, entertained if misinformed. At every level of government, it seems, journalism is losing ground to news control.
January 31st, 2006 • Quill Archives
Public records unearth dangers with carnival rides
Ever wonder about those carnival rides at the county fair? How many times have you ridden past a shopping center mini-fair, with its glowing rides, and thought to yourself, “Who knows how safe the Tilt-A-Whirl is? Who is in charge of these things?”
Call them Abu Ghraib Redux, or the 87 Photos and Four Videos the Government Doesn’t Want the World to See. One thing’s for certain: a cadre of taxpayer-funded Pentagon lawyers would prefer to find a sympathetic activist judge willing to rewrite the federal Freedom of Information Act so that the second batch of Abu Ghraib torture images — the so-called “Darby photos,” named for the key whistleblower in the torture scandal, Specialist Joseph M.
After several years of near-constant encroachment on our ability to gather news, might we be seeing the first signs of media solidarity? It seems that the sheer volume of attacks on the press is engendering – finally – a willingness to work together to provide a counter to the endless barrage of press-bashing, and to stand up to the antics of government despots at all level who cynically foment hatred for the press while pretending to care about freedom.
As the eyes and ears of the public, journalists stake their professional reputations on overcoming hurdles to access information held by government. Spend any amount of time with the true FOI warriors, and you’ll hear tales of woe, amazing accounts of official stonewalling and intimidation.
February 3rd, 2005 • Quill Archives
Homeland security’s new policy the ultimate gag order
“I, _________________________________, an individual official, employee, consultant, or subcontractor of or to _______________________ (the Authorized Entity), intending to be legally bound, hereby consent to the terms in this agreement in consideration of my being granted conditional access to certain information, specified below, that is owned by, produced by, or in the possession of the United States Government.”
October 23rd, 2004 • Quill Archives
Ban on photos of war dead prompts important history lesson
Two simple words: “seditious libel.” They invoke images of redcoats, Whigs and Tories, tar and feathers. We fought the War for Independence, in part, to rid ourselves of that odious threat, through which monarchies stifled any expression, true or false, factual or opinionated, and which dared challenge the omnipotence of the representatives of the throne.
October 23rd, 2004 • Quill Archives
There’s no ’accounting’ for government — unless you do an audit
So you might want to conduct a Freedom of Information audit. Do we have some help for you! Thanks to the generous support of SPJ’s supporting foundation, Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ has created the first-ever “FOI Audit Toolkit” — a complete “how-to” reference for anyone tackling an FOI audit.
With 2003 in the books, it’s time to recap a busy, busy year on the FOI front and prioritize for the battles ahead in 2004. Your FOI Committee spent the year standing up for access to government records and proceedings in the face of unprecedented efforts at secrecy from the executive branch on down to the small towns of America.
In August, I was approached by the Mainstream Media Project, a nonprofit group that helps a variety of public interest causes by lining up academic experts to talk to radio and television hosts about the issues of the day. I was asked to pitch in on a campaign on civil liberties after Sept.