Thursday, March 5, 2009


I've become increasingly irritated with columns that speak platitudes about why newspapers are important for American democracy. It's not that I even disagree with them - I just think they could come up with better arguments.

David Simon wins the prize: a great article showing what happens when you don't have people (reporters, citizen journalists, whoever) exercising our formidable public information laws. I used to have this experience with international students who would do reporting internships with me when I would send them, as any good intern should have to, to get public records, or attend police precinct meetings, or in one infamous case in my career, have to make a stink because a government funded neighborhood group invited us to cover a candidate forum at a building built by taxpayer dollars, and then said we weren't "allowed" to tape it. Right. (We ended up taping it in the end.)

The students from non western societies I could understand being amazed at the amount of access granted to reporters, but German students thinking they were barred access from a sub committee meeting at city hall? This is America, baby! Seriously, it was good instruction about how little the American press tradition is understood by other nationalities, and the international students, particularly from Africa, really ran with it once they realized what was available. 

The point is, as Mr. Simon articulates, we all need to flex a little muscle in access to our government. And we need to find an allies as he did to enforce our great public information and government access laws. 

No comments: