In a rare move last week, 38 journalism and open government groups signed onto a letter calling for President Barack Obama to allow for easier access to federal government information. Those groups include the voices of the student press and those who teach and advise them. Journalism educator groups the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Journalism Education Association and student press advocacy groups including the Associated Collegiate Press, College Media Association and Student Press Law Center were among the groups signing. The letter details complaints that include:
- Weeks and sometimes months of delays getting fundamental, important government information to reporters, and thus, the public.
- Forcing journalists to go through Public Information Offices (PIO) for information.
- PIO, in turn, not responding or delaying in providing information or providing “slick non-answers” to questions.
- Forbidding federal employees from talking to journalists directly.
- Forcing journalists to hand in interview questions in advance of the interview.
The letter notes that journalists have not always had these problems. It states:
In many cases, this is clearly being done to control what information journalists – and the audience they serve – have access to. A survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote.
I urge you to read the letter. Problems with receiving public information is not only a federal government problem, it is a state problem. The public has a right to know what its government is doing. Withholding information prevents the public from holding its government accountable for its actions, good or bad.
Are you a student looking to learn more about journalism or a journalism teacher looking to update your skills?
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas is offering free, online classes in mobile journalism and in investigative reporting this summer. Yes, I said FREE. All you have to do is sign up here.
The investigative reporting course, Investigative Journalism for the Digital Age, recently wrapped up but is still accessible online. I took the investigative reporting classes, and I am glad I did. Although the introductory material won’t be new to many journalism teachers, there are great tips from investigative reporters and hands-on exercises on using Excel for database reporting. The course also includes great examples to show your classes and publicly available online resources for information. I highly recommend it for students and teachers alike.
Introduction to Mobile Journalism started June 30 and runs until Aug. 3, 2014. It is not too late to enroll. Among the experts teaching the course are Robert Hernandez, whom some of you on Twitter may know as @webjournalist or through #wjchat. I’ll be signing up for this course later today.
Hope to see you on the class Facebook page or forums! Trust me, the classes are worth your time.
I took a break from this blog because I didn’t think it mattered to people, particularly some of those who had power over my tenure review and over whether I got to stay at a job I loved. I tried to focus solely on what those people thought had “value,” and my blog was clearly not one of those things.
I made a mistake.
I’m sure this situation is not unusual to some of you who teach at colleges and are on a tenure track line. I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, journalists, despite their important mission to inform the public and act as the public’s watchdog, are hardly treated with respect. But what I have come to realize is that I cannot let the views of some, regardless of their power, change what I do if I believe in it. It was true as a journalist, and it is certainly true as a journalism teacher.
I have a voice, and I am going to use it.
Thank you to all who have followed this blog. If you left, I will work to get you back as reader. If you stayed, thank you; I will work to make it worth your time.
So stay tuned for posts about all things journalism, particularly as relates to teaching, college journalism, media law, and gender and the media.
I teach Media Law, and I always looking for ways to get students excited about it. All of our Journalism and Broadcasting students have to take the class, and as you might imagine, most are not thrilled about it. I tried something new this semester to get the students attention, and it worked far better than I expected. We watched Jonathan McIntosh‘s “Buffy vs. Edward” remix, and then we discussed his Fair Use Copyright battle with YouTube and Lionsgate. The remix takes excerpts from the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” television show and mixes them with scenes from the “Twilight” movies. The result is a biting (pun intended) commentary on gender issues.
The students watched, laughed and even cheered the six minute film. Afterward, even the normally silent ones spoke passionately about the sometimes conflict between artistic expression and copyright law. This led to discussions of copyright and rap/hip hop music and parody. They were far more engaged then they would have been discussing Harper & Row vs. Nation Enterprises (1985) or Campbell vs. Acuff-Rose Music (1994) (although we did have some fun with that last one, too).
One helluva journalist is sitting in prison in Liberia. His name is Rodney Sieh. I had the great pleasure of working with him at The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY. He’s sitting in prison in Liberia for printing the truth and not being able to pay a more than $1 million fine for it. I teach my students in Media Law class that the truth is the best defense in a libel suit because libel is false. Not so in Liberia, where truth and falsity appear to have little to do with libel.
Thankfully, there are ways we can show our support for Rodney. You can sign the petition to free Rodney at change.org. You can follow what is happening at freerodney.org.
My alma mater, Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, is getting involved. Roy Gutterman of the Tully Center for Free Speech is working to free Rodney. Here’s hoping Roy, and the voices of all concerned, hold sway.
John Robinson, editor of The News and Record in Greensboro, N.C., tweeted a link to a video about the “consolidation” of copy desks by Media General.
This video is a beautiful, but sad tribute to copy editors and all that they do made all the sadder by the fact that many companies don’t value them at all and think merging copy desks will not mean any content changes, just money savings.
You find yourself troubled by politicians using others’ works without permission.
You may ask yourself, “What is wrong with them?”
You may tell yourself these politicians do not represent you.
“Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.”
Forgive me, Talking Heads, for my horrible parody of “Once in a Lifetime.” At least I am acknowledging it and being clear you had nothing to do with it — unlike a certain political candidate in Florida.
David Byrne, former singer of Talking Heads, is suing Florida Gov. Charlie Christ for using “Road to Nowhere” in a campaign commercial without his permission. Byrne is seeking $1 million.
Sadly, Christ is not the only one accused of stealing intellectual property. According to the Washington Post, Idaho Congressional Candidate Vaughn Ward, who has Sarah Palin’s support, is accused of plagiarizing an Obama speech.
See for yourself. The evidence is unbelievably damning.