Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Director's Notes: This One Astounds Me

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The government has become the chief user of the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Office, with 63 percent of the caseload seeking authorization to deny Freedom of Information requests entirely or in part. The Daily Herald’s Jake Griffin said public officials continue to attempt rolling back or watering down the state’s Freedom of Information Act. In the last year, the Public Access Office handled 5,228 cases, of which 3,278 originated from government agencies seeking permission to keep information out of the public’s hands. The state handled 156 news media appeals for public records in 2010.

Turning to the attorney general’s office is just a symptom of the underlying tension between government officials and journalists. More evidence can be found in a recent Chicago Headline Club survey that said obtaining information from many Chicago and Cook County departments is so difficult that many journalists have given up trying. The research, funded by the McCormick Foundation, asked local reporters about typical response times for information requests. The picture is not pretty.

Those who do succeed in getting a meaty story are in constant need of distribution channels. We are pleased that members of the Investigative News Network have crafted a deal to syndicate content via Reuters. INN is a non-profit consortium of news organizations that is funded in part by the McCormick Foundation.

Meanwhile, Facebook is looking for ways to turn the site into a distribution and possible money-making platform for news. The company’s new journalist program initiative is designed to educate reporters, writers and editors on the benefits of using Facebook as a tool for gathering information and distributing news.

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