FOIA – Protection for All

I work for a newspaper. A small town newspaper, but a newspaper nonetheless. This week we got a letter from a “Freedom of Information Officer” from one of the small towns in the area. It seems we are “making too many mistakes in reporting the minutes of their meetings.” But no one has ever, not once, called in to tell us that; not one complaint has ever come. We would gladly print a retraction if we are wrong about something. This baffles me. They want the right to preview our reports from now on before we print.

This is a government board. How much would they want retracted from the original report? And who the heck is a “Freedom of Information Officer?” The Freedom of Information Act is there to guarantee that citizens are allowed to see and hear what their government is doing. In another town, they threatened to do all their meetings in executive session, just because we brought a recorder. The recorder is to guarantee we get it right, not to do a “gotcha.”

Imagine if the Federal Government or the State government asked for the right to preview everything that gets printed about them. It would be gridlock!

Like most of what we see in politics these days, someone throws out a vague accusation against another, but never gives the details, and when asked to give one, they usually can’t think of anything. I suspect that may be what this is. Being a newspaper employee, I intend to have them put all those details, list every single error they think we have made, in writing, because if we did make a mistake, we need to correct it, right? This also validates our decision to record the meetings. It’s benefits both of us, media and government. It protects both of us.

On a Lighter Note…Smokey Bear Turns 70

Smokey Bear was created in 1944 because of fears that America’s enemies would set forest fires while most U.S. firefighters were in battle overseas. When the war ended, Smokey stuck around — and he is now at the center of the longest-running public service announcement campaign in U.S. history. Research shows he is known by 96 percent of American adults and ranks near Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus for name recognition. His creation was a collaboration of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.

Happy Birthday, Smokey!

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