The FOI Battles Must Go On

Article excerpt

Time to make a personal note. After four years as chair of the Freedom of Information Committee, I'm stepping down. With increasing duties as an elected officer, we'll pass the FOI torch to Joel Campbell during the national convention in October.

Many of you already know Joel. He's been the state sunshine chair in Utah for many years and is the incoming president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. He's with the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

Unlike a new reporter taking over someone's beat, there will be no learning curve for Joel. He's well-versed in local, state and federal government sunshine issues.

And he'll be relying on the Project Sunshine network of volunteers, as I did, to keep SPJ ahead of the curve on all access issues across the nation.

The sunshine volunteers are a hard-working bunch and our members should be proud they're keeping vigilant.

It's been another hallmark year for the Society.

SPJ joined the Foodspeak Coalition to fight veggie libel laws, growing in popularity across the country. Immediate past president Steve Geimann is serving as our representative to work closely with the group, which is based in Washington, D.C.

The Access to Prisons report, published both in Quill and in a special report with the assistance of an SDX grant, got immediate attention. Charles Davis, assistant professor at Southern Methodist University, was its author, again doing the work of surveying all states at no cost. Davis is also one of our sunshine chairs in Texas. Three hundred copies were requested for the Investigative Reporters & Editors conference in early June. BBC in London called for advice on how to negotiate a prison interview. The report is also posted on our Web site and is being distributed at other media conventions around the country.

Lucy Dalglish, immediate past FOI committee chair, wrote an amicus brief for SPJ and other groups in the Kentucky State University case that involves censorship of a college yearbook. Lucy did the work pro bono. The case is on appeal in the 6th Circuit. The district court's judgment in this case is the first in the nation to impose the Hazelwood standard on a public university publication. …