Saturday, June 7, 2008

Glorifying the everyday grunt work

I can't say enough about the value of getting and going through otherwise-routine public records on a routine basis. You could glean that from any number of sessions here at the conference, but I'm inferring it again from the excellent session by Jim Neff and Ken Armstrong of The Seattle Times about their series, "Victory and Ruins." This is always vindicating to hear -- especially given the very bad memory I have from a few years ago, when our then-top boss banned us from FOIAing any records in any instance in which we did not already have a specific tip or allegation of explicit wrongdoing. That edict, many Salt Mine readers will recall, nearly made my head explode. But it's great to come to IRE and hear the word preached -- it is like going to church, in the religion of journalism -- and my head is un-exploding now. Can I get an "amen"?
NOTE: I went through this post on Sunday and updated it to fix some typos and add some links.


Mule Day said...

He did not issue such a ban. What he did was, question one FOIA on behalf of a public official he was friendly with... force the reporter to withdraw it... and then demanded pre-approval of all FOIAS... he never said what the criteria would be, so it had the effect of a ban... but it wasn't a ban.

JP said...

Mule Team,
You are right, I stand corrected. But as you said, it had the effect of a ban. There was the phone-records FOIA that I believe sparked the non-ban/edict, but then there was the subsequent proposed FOIA (different reporter) that was nixed on the same grounds, when we had proposed to look at some travel expenses on a specific trip taken by high-ranking Metro officials. -- JP