Wednesday, November 4, 2009

14th Annual Free Speech and Open Government Assembly

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The McCormick Foundation co-sponsored the First Amendment Coalition 's Oct. 24 free speech conference at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Ethnic journalists, students, lawyers and community activists were among the 90 attendees. 

"For journalists and soon-to-be journalists looking for professional training, we had multiple sessions focused on practical guidance, giving journalists ideas for stories, information that can yield good stories, and a basic understanding of the factual context for reporting, at the local and community level, on selected, controversial issues," says Peter Scheer, executive director of FAC.

Workshops offered tips on how to cover public education reform and local law enforcement, as well as legal tools for enterprise reporting on city and county government. 

Multi-lingual panelists (Spanish, Vietnamese and English) discussed leveraging Freedom of Information (FOI) laws and specific uses of online tools to obtain government records. 

"[The tools for reporting on local government panel was] an excellent panel that dealt with some of the problems journalists face when they get stonewalled by city government while covering daily beats," Riya Bhattacharjee, staff writer at The Berkeley Daily Planet.

"Attorney James Chadwick, L.A. Times staff writer Jack Leonard and San Jose Mercury News Managing Editor Bert Robinson did an incredible job explaining the nuts and bolts of the Freedom of Information Act, the California Public Records Act and the Brown Act, all of which offer a lifeline to any reporter who would otherwise be completely shut out of ways to get hold of important government records," Bhattacharjee says.

Training sessions included a demonstration of, a legislative database for use by California journalists to analyze special interests' influence on bills, votes.  

Panel discussions  focused on  journalists' use of social media and new business models for news reporting.   

Featured speakers included Alex Jones (pictured above), author of "Losing the News," and Alexandra Berzon, 2009 Pulitzer winner.
     View and download the event program for more information.

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