I’ve had a few knock-down drag-out fights over public records in my time, and you know what the worst part about it usually was? I felt alone in my fight. Sure, most news directors, editors, etc. are happy to listen to your battle stories, but how many will actually step in and help you get those records? Unfortunately, not every boss will.
That’s why I was so thrilled to read this article in The New York Times called “Despite Budgets, Some Newsrooms Persist in Costly Fight for Records.”
Public records battles can be frustrating and time consuming, but the thing that makes bosses back down faster than you can say “FOIA!” is usually the cost associated with the fight. It’s not always cheap, but this NYT story warms my heart and shows that not all newsrooms are backing down.
The Associated Press, for example, has hired a new in-house lawyer to help fight their battles, according to the article.
When they’re denied a public record, the A.P. “will send documents, sometimes just a letter, that often resemble full legal briefs to agencies being tight with information,” according to the story.
“We give them a taste of what a lawsuit looks like,” said Dave Tomlin, associate general counsel for The A.P.
It’s that kind of support that energizes reporters and inspires them to make more public records and FOIA requests. I hope newsrooms across the country take note of this.