Saturday, January 22, 2011

Open-government lawyer Fleischaker named press association's most valuable member

He really isn't a member as such, but the Kentucky Press Association wouldn't be the same without him, so the group gave Louisville lawyer Jon Fleischaker its Most Valuable Member Award yesterday.

Fleischaker has been the chief attorney for the association, The Courier-Journal and several other newspapers for decades, and in the early 1980s he and KPA started the only freedom-of-information hotline available at no charge to members of a state press association. He largely wrote the state's open-meetings and open-records laws in the 1970s and headed a rewrite in the early 1990s. The open-government laws remain models for other states.

The lawyer's "body of work is a huge testament to the value of open governance," said outgoing KPA President Chip Hutcheson of Princeton. Hutcheson, who is active in government-affairs issues with the National Newspaper Association, said Fleischaker "created a culture of openness in Kentucky government that is rare among states."

Fleischaker told the group, "It's been a labor of love for me and Kim" Greene, his wife and law partner. He closed with words of caution, saying the American system of politics and government "means you never stop fighting" for freedom of information.

President stresses need for legal ads

In other business at KPA's annual luncheon, Hutcheson was succeeded as president by Jamie Sizemore, right, publisher of The Kentucky Standard in Bardstown. She said the association needs to be more proactive in defending laws requiring government agencies to run legal notices in newspapers. She said polling shows that 89 percent of Kentuckians are more likely to see such ads in their local paper, while only 9 percent said they would more likely see them on web sites, where many officials want to put them instead to reduce costs. Sizemore said legal ads can account for "10, 20 even 30 percent" of a newspaper's revenue, but are also part of its government-watchdog function. KPA has a service that puts legal ads online for free. Sizemore said papers should promote the print and online services "as a bundle" that increases government accountability and transparency. For the Standard's report on its publisher's ascension, click here.

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