Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New SPJ president urges journalists to fight official secrecy, says it's growing at all levels

Journalists must redouble their efforts to fight growing secrecy, the new president of the Society of Professional Journalists told the organization's convention as it wrapped up Tuesday in Las Vegas.

"We are under attack, from the smallest communities to the federal government," Hagit Limor, left, a reporter for Cincinnati's WCPO-TV, told the crowd at her installation banquet. She quoted a report from Freedom of Information Committee Chairman David Cuillier, saying that in many communities "We have the equivalent of a police state."

Cuillier, right, a journalism professor at the University of Arizona, made an "Access Across America" tour to 33 states this spring and summer, including one in Louisville, funded by SPJ's Sigma Delta Chi Foundation. It won him two awards and much recognition at the convention. In his report he cited cases of "no access to jail logs, arrest reports, 911 logs, incident reports or scanner traffic," but said the biggest FOI problem "isn’t that government is denying record requests. The problem is that not enough journalists are submitting record requests. Small news organizations need much more training in access. In some newsrooms the reporters didn’t know they could ask for public records."

Limor, whose father survived the Buchenwald concentration camp and saw her sworn in, said the Holocaust wasn't reported for years though governments knew about it. "Ask him why we have to fight for press rights, for access to government records," she said. "We are part of something that is bigger than all of us, that depends on all of us." For more on the convention and SPJ see

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