Friday, January 22, 2010

AP chief says journalism includes using open-government laws and fighting for better ones

Using freedom-of-information laws and fighting for stronger ones is "journalism by other means" and should be an essential function for journalists, their employers and their membership organizations, Tom Curley, president of The Associated Press, told the Kentucky Press Association today.

Keynoting KPA's convention at the Embassy Suites in Lexington, Curley said America's broad body of statutory and case law for open government is "terribly vulnerable" because of changes in the friendly "ecosystem" that has built "this fragile edifice of laws and rules." He said the ecosystem includes news organizations that are suffering financial pressure and journalism organizations that are seeing their membership ranks wither. Also, "Courts and judges, sometimes at the highest level, are part of the problem they are supposed to help us solve," Curley said.

Curley said that in tough economic times, when so much emphasis is on maintaining audience and generating revenue, he was glad to see the KPA convention had several sessions related to freedom of information. The centerpiece of the program was the Better Watchdog Workshop of Investigative Reporters and Editors, aimed at helping newspapers do better watchdog journalism about government and other institutions.

The convention concludes tonight with the annual awards banquet. At the luncheon where Curley spoke, the Lexington Herald-Leader presented its annual Lewis Owens Community Service Award to the Beattyville Enterprise, a small weekly paper that continued publishing after its offices were destroyed by fire. "We are all inspired by your story," Curley told Enterprise Editor Edmund Shelby, who completed his year as KPA president at the event. The new president is Chip Hutcheson of The Times Leader in Princeton.

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