Featured Posts

Loading

Newspaper Comments

Loading

Excerpt From:

The Denver Post
Versus
The Capital

"A flagship local newspaper... plays a critically important role in its city and state: It provides a public record of the good and the bad, serves as a watchdog against public and private corruption, offers a free marketplace of ideas and stands as a lighthouse reflective and protective of — and accountable to — a community’s values and goals. A news organization like ours ought to be seen, especially by our owner, as a necessary public institution vital to the very maintenance of our grand democratic experiment."

On the Capital's Journalistic Ethics

(intended as a spoof)*

  • New York Times motto: Without fear or favor.
  • Capital motto: With fear and favor.

  • Washington Post motto: Democracy dies in darkness.
  • Capital motto: The Capital thrives in darkness.

  • Aspen Daily News motto: If you don't want it printed, don’t let it happen.
  • Capital motto: If you don't want it printed (and you’re powerful), just let us know.

*The Capital has no such mottoes, let alone any formal ethics policy, published on its website.

On the Capital's Corrections Policy


  • New York Times:  “The Times recognizes an ethical responsibility to correct all its factual errors, large and small (even misspellings of names), promptly and in a prominent reserved space in the paper. A correction serves all readers, not just
    those who were injured or who complained, so it must be self-explanatory, tersely recalling the context and the background while repairing the error.”*
  • Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics: “Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.”
  • Capital: None.

*The Times policy of acknowledging errors is exceptional. As one newspaper scholar notes: "Many news outlets have ceased apologizing for errors altogether."

On the Capital's Story Plagiarism Policy



*The NPR policy of acknowledging sources, including competitors, is exceptional. As one local news editor acknowledged in a scholarly study: story ideas are never attributed "except that a news organization will give themselves credit for their idea."

Sunshine Week 2016 Editorial Cartoon

Report on
Howard County Public School System
violations of the Public Information Act 

Key Principles

  • Records retention policies are essential to the ability of a governmental unit to maintain its records and respond properly to PIA requests.
  • A governmental unit must not treat (or be perceived as treating) controversial or uncomfortable public records requests differently than it handles “garden-variety” requests.
  • PIA requests must be handled without regard to the identity of the requestor or the subject of the records requested....
  • Although fees may be charged by a custodian, waiver requests should not be denied without consideration of the public interest, because doing so can undermine the purpose of the PIA by deterring requestors from pursuing their record requests.

Case Study

The foregoing history demonstrates multiple PIA compliance problems and incorrect or unsubstantiated responses by HCPSS. Among the areas of concern are: HCPSS’ failure to respond in writing to the September 2012 and April 2014 PIA requests for student records; HCPSS’ unsubstantiated assertion that the vast majority of records it produced to the requestor for the first time in February 2016 had been produced in 2014 and earlier; and the repetition of this unsubstantiated statement and concomitant representation later in 2016 by the Director of Communications that all disclosable records had been produced to the requestor. In fact, HCPSS’ own counsel demonstrated that the latter comment was not the case when an additional record was provided for the first time on November 28, 2016.... (pages 3-4)

HCPSS’ multiple failures in responding fully and accurately to this requestor have severely undermined the ability of this requestor to have any trust or confidence in the integrity and validity of HCPSS’ responses to her PIA requests. Likewise, failures of this magnitude, persisting for more than 4 years, have an obvious impact on the level of trust and confidence that HCPSS can expect in the wider community. Perhaps most troubling of all is that, even at this late date, HCPSS seems unwilling to give a candid accounting for these failures. Apart from the persistence of certain unanswered questions concerning the withholding of other records not yet produced, but which may be subject to disclosure in redacted form, HCPSS has taken no steps to acknowledge and take responsibility for the very real injury to this requestor.... (page 29)

 

--Maryland Public Access Ombudsman's Report Concerning the Howard County Public School System's Handling of Requests Under the Public Information Act, December 30, 2016.

A Survey of Journalists on the
Freedom of Information
Enforcement Problem

  • [R]espondents were asked to select their top three choices that could increase open records compliancy.  The number one option cited is by increasing enforcement measures. Forty-five percent said it was the #1 most needed solution while another 23% cited it as their #2 selection....
  • Unfortunately, while increasing enforcement measures is cited as the number one recommendation to increase transparency, 60% of respondents believe current enforcement measures are ineffective....
  • [T]he majority of respondents (63%) said that "disingenuous rationalization" was the most common reason why government and public officials deny access to information.  However, “Inappropriate game-playing” received 60% and “arguable interpretation of statutory language” was cited by 57%.
  • Fifty-one percent believe denial of public information comes from ignorance of the law, and only 23% of respondents credits “honest mistakes” as the reason they were denied access....
  • Eighty-eight percent of respondents agreed that there is a declining media interest and involvement in litigation and legal actions regarding open government matters...."

--National Freedom of Information Coalition's 
2016 Open Government Survey, March 17, 2016

"He who controls the past controls the future." 

--George Orwell,
1984

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 

--George Santayana,
The Life of Reason, 1905

As applied to the Anne Arundel School Board Nominating Commission, see J.H. Snider's blog post from May 12, 2008 in light of his Washington Post op-ed from January 14, 2016 and the Capital's news story on January 27, 2016.

"What's past is prologue." 

--William Shakespeare

"Only about two-in-ten Americans (22%) trust the information they get from local news organizations a lot, whether online or offline." 

--The Modern News Consumer, Pew Charitable Trusts, July 7, 2016

"The public’s right to information about government activities
lies at the heart of a democratic government." 

--Maryland Public Information Act Manual,
Preface (13th ed., October 2014)

"The Maryland Public Information Act establishes a public policy and a general presumption in favor of disclosure of government or public documents." 

--Office of Governor v. Washington Post Co.,
360 Md. 520, 544 (2000)

"Education is the most important thing that county government does. This is reflected in the fact that education constitutes 51 percent of the county budget."

--Steve Schuh, Anne Arundel County Executive
Composition of school board unavoidably a political issue,
Capital, May 1, 2016

________________________

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!