A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

April 1st, 2005 • Quill Archives
Tips to help government officials work for you

As winter turns to spring, it’s time again for SPJ to embark on its annual Capitol Hill visit, when leaders of our organization meet with staff people from key members of Congress and, often, important departments of the federal government. Last year, we began our Washington visit with a conversation with Beryl Howell, who had recently left the staff of Sen.

April 7th, 2004 • Quill Archives
Calendar puts open records to good use

Thursday, Jan. 1 A man believing himself to be God appeared in the lobby of the Lewis and Clark Motel at 7:40 p.m. and refused to leave. He was later identified to be a 26-year-old man from Butte. They’re the kind of thing that might have been part of a script on the old “Andy Griffith Show”: Sunday, Feb.

December 9th, 2003 • Quill Archives
Living up to expectations

“We used to ask Western, even American journalists, to come and teach our budding newsmen and women because we believed that they were the ones who hold best to the freedom of the press. After seeing what happened with the press during the Iraq war, our beliefs were shattered.”

November 12th, 2003 • Quill Archives
Convention brings FOI recognition and planning

The ovation had begun with warmth and admiration. Then, as people began to rise from their seats, it became something more, swelling and sustaining, even as the recipient of the applause sat down at his table near the stage. Roger Jewell had just received the Freedom of Information Committee’s final “Sunshine Award” of the 2003 SPJ National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

July 24th, 2003 • Quill Archives
Three heroes honored for FOI work

You don’t often get to make a fellow journalist cry. It happened in May in Nashville, Tenn., when a man named Bob Johnson stepped onto a podium amid thunderous applause and acknowledged his recognition as a hero. As he spoke to the assembled audience, his voice became choked with emotion and his eyes brimmed with tears born of joy, pride and surprise.

April 29th, 2003 • Quill Archives
All free-speech cases affect journalism

Talk about strange bedfellows. Gynecologists. Condom merchants. “Riotgrrl.” Not exactly the folks journalists would think of first when listing First Amendment allies. Yet, over the past seven years, they are among the entities SPJ has joined in significant First Amendment battles.

March 27th, 2003 • Quill Archives
Electronics bring opportunity for change

Keep your eyes on Illinois. Thanks in large measure to the Chicago Headline Club (the Chicago SPJ chapter), media organizations have worked with local government leaders and Illinois’ new attorney general to improve their state’s FOI climate, proving once again that when journalists knock on the door of government at the right time, all citizens can benefit.

February 18th, 2003 • Quill Archives
Bring an FOI coalition to your state

Here’s a worthy New Year’s resolution for 2003 and 2004: Create a viable FOI coalition in every one of the 50 states. That’s the ambitious goal that SPJ and the National Freedom of Information Coalition have set for themselves. In May of this year, our two organizations will take what we hope will be a giant step toward achieving that goal.

December 23rd, 2002 • Quill Archives
History is truth’s best defense

Be accountable. I’ve believed for some time those two words represent the most challenging part of SPJ’s Code of Ethics. So while this column is about access to information, it’s also about being accountable. I also write this now because, by the time you read these words, America might be at war on a new front – Iraq.

September 20th, 2002 • Quill Archives
Updates, Comments and thanks

MEDICAL PRIVACY As you’ve read in these pages and, perhaps, in other places during the past three years or so, the federal government wants to ensure that Americans’ medical records are kept safe from unauthorized use or distribution. A worthy goal, admittedly, but one that has left journalists – and, thus, the public’s interest – out in the cold.

July 23rd, 2002 • Quill Archives
Share the importance of open government

Since our theme in this issue is journalism education, let’s conduct a small experiment. Take a look at the most recent issue of your community’s newspaper. Specifically, check the front page and the front of the Metro/Community/Local News section. How many stories do you see that have their origins in public records, a public meeting or a proceeding in open court?

June 19th, 2002 • Quill Archives
New justifications for access restrictions

More governments are closing meetings and records to the public. Bad signs in the news: Political leaders set ground rules for reporters as to what can and cannot be reported from a budget briefing. Government employees are barred from speaking with reporters about certain subjects.

May 1st, 2002 • Quill Archives
SPJ reps pay visit to the Capitol

Signs of early spring in Washington, D.C.: the first hints of blossoms on cherry trees. Irish pubs sprucing up for St. Patrick’s Day. SPJ leaders in congressional offices. On March 7 and 8, 2002, SPJ visited the nation’s capital to call on key members of the U.S.

April 3rd, 2002 • Quill Archives
If only FOI law came on stone tablets

One thing about writing on FOI issues – there’s never a lack of things going on. From dramatic changes in federal records policy to state legislators making frontal assaults on public access laws to government officials at all levels finding creative ways to subvert open meetings requirements.

March 5th, 2002 • Quill Archives
Caution required in our daily work

This isn’t the column I set out to write. I had intended to look at hopeful signs amid the gloomy events that had characterized the FOI scene as we entered 2002. Then, on an otherwise routine Saturday afternoon in January, came news of a major highway accident near the town of Belt, Mont.,

February 6th, 2002 • Quill Archives
Projects underscore need for FOI

ARLINGTON, VA – They gathered just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., ten days before Christmas. Newspaper editors. First Amendment advocates. Academics. Legal minds. Lobbyists. Leaders of local and national organizations. They came to think and talk and prepare for action.

December 14th, 2001 • Quill Archives
Bush administration’s war on FOIA

The other shoe has dropped at the federal Department of Justice. If you didn’t hear the thud, it may be because it was drowned out by the sound of file drawers slamming shut at federal agencies. Ever since President George W.

November 14th, 2001 • Quill Archives
Openness is too important to set aside

As I write this, we are not yet a week removed from images of hijacked jetliners, collapsed buildings, horrendous death tolls and national shock. By the time you read this, events may have progressed to the point that these words may be self-evident, redundant or obsolete.

November 14th, 2001 • Quill Archives
New resources, warnings on the FOI front

When attendees at the SPJ National Convention came to hear about “FOI and the Public Eye,” they came away with a full plate of resources and challenging perceptions. Attorney Dave Bahr of Eugene, Ore., led off. Bahr and his law partner, Dan Stotter, run a small public interest (but for-profit) law office in Eugene.

September 14th, 2001 • Quill Archives
Access denied

On Aug. 1, a stolen pickup truck driven by a suspected shoplifter veered into a median on Interstate 40 west of Albuquerque, N.M. The driver, 19-year-old Zachariah Craig, was trying to avoid a spike belt laid down by New Mexico state police officer Kenneth Aragon.

July 31st, 2001 • Quill Archives
A watchful eye

Local FOI advocates remain alert for threats to access The United States may be a nation of laws, not of men (or “of people,” to be more precise), but when laws regarding public access to government are violated, ignored or forgotten, it’s up to people to take action, whether as individuals or as organizations.