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This news media blog explores the nexus between the press, the public and technology with two missions. One, to engage citizens in an online conversation about the role of the news media in their lives, in the hope that they will use and critique the media more effectively. And secondly to explore how the press can remain relevant, essential and accountable to citizens and communities.

Mike Fancher is Editor at Large of The Seattle Times.

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April 10, 2008 11:45 AM

Secrecy spreads like fire in the Santa Ana winds

Posted by Mike Fancher

Press Here
for a cautionary tale about abuse of public records secrecy in the OC.

The Orange County Register discovered there are 996,716 vehicles registered to California motorists who are affiliated with 1,800 state and local agencies and who are allowed to hide their home addresses under a Confidential Records Program. The Register said its investigation "has found that the program, designed 30 years ago to protect police from criminals, has been expanded to cover hundreds of thousands of public employees - from police dispatchers to museum guards - who face little threat from the public. Their spouses and children can get the plates, too."

Continue reading this post ...

Comments | Category: Open government |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 20, 2008 8:15 AM

Public sees government secrecy on the rise

Posted by Mike Fancher

How secretive is government? Plenty and increasingly, according to a new public survey conducted in connection with Sunshine Week.

Three quarters of the respondents said they think the federal government is very or somewhat secretive. That's up from 62 percent in 2006.

Local government fared a lot better, with 56 percent saying their local government is very or somewhat open. In contrast, 40 percent said local government is very or somewhat secretive, but that is up from 34 percent just last year.

The scariest responses had to do with suspicions about government and personal privacy:

Although only about a quarter of adults believe the federal government has opened their mail or monitored their telephone conversations without a federal warrant, three-quarters believe it has happened to people in the United States and two-thirds say it is very or somewhat likely to have happened to members of the news media.

The most encouraging response is nearly everyone said that when they vote in state and local elections it is important to know a candidate's position and record on open government. That's one reason organizations like the Washington Coalition for Open Government have been asking candidates to take a pledge of openness. (Press Here for more on that.)

On specific issues, the survey said:

People also overwhelmingly want access to information such as who lawmakers meet with each day (82 percent), police reports about specific crimes in local neighborhoods (71 percent), and permits for concealed handguns (66 percent). About half said they do not object to officials asking people seeking records to identify themselves or explain why they'd like to see the record.

Sunshine Week is a non-partisan open government initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Comments | Category: FOIA , Open government |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 18, 2008 12:05 PM

Update -- You can still catch some rays during Sunshine Week

Posted by Mike Fancher

Update -- TVW, the Washington State public affairs television network, will broadcast the Sunshine Week national and local panels at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday, March 21. Check the TVW web site for the channel locator and updating on future show times on the TVW schedule.

This is Sunshine Week, and Seattle area residents can join the cause tomorrow at the studios of KCTS 9 Television, 401 Mercer Street, Seattle.

Sunshine Week is a national initiative of the American Society of Newspaper Editors to support open government and freedom of information. The town meeting at KCTS is sponsored by the Washington Coalition for Open Government, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization.

The town hall here will start at 10 a.m. with the national broadcast of a panel on government secrecy and your right to know. the broadcast wil be followed at 11:30 a.m. with a local panel in the KCTS studios. The panelists are:

Tom Carr, Seattle City Attorney
William Crittenden, of the Groff Murphy law firm
Rob McKenna, Washington State Attorney General
Sam Reed, Washington Secretary of State
Brian Sonntag, Washington State Auditor
Lynn Kessler, Washington State Representative and House majority leader

Enrique Cerna, executive producer for KCTS will moderate.

The event is free. No RSVP is necessary, just show up at the KCTS studio after 9:30. Press Here for driving directions.

Sunshine Week is endowed by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Comments | Category: FOIA , Free Press , Open government |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 13, 2008 11:30 AM

Shining the light on your government

Posted by Mike Fancher

Today's Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer include a 4-page section about open government. While it is intended for use in high-school classrooms, the section is useful reading for all citizens.

Continue reading this post ...

Comments | Category: FOIA , Open government |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 12, 2008 9:30 AM

Seattle City Council back open-government bill

Posted by Mike Fancher

Kudos to the Seattle City Council for urging the state legislature to pass a bill requiring audio taping of all executive sessions of government.

HB3292 requires taping so there will some record of what happened in these closed sessions, should a court subsequently finds the activity shouldn't have been secret. The tapes would be divulged only after such a finding.

Lobbyists for many cities and counties across the state argued against the bill, saying it would have a chilling effect on the closed-door conversations. The measure appeared dead because of that opposition, but legislative supporters resurrected it. The opponents haven't backed down, but support from Seattle sends a message that not all local governments are against it.

Seattle Councilmember Richard J. McIver said, "Requiring the recording of executive sessions is an important step in government accountability."

Council President Richard Conlin said, "This resolution continues the Council's long track record of support for open government. We support the efforts by the Attorney General and the State Auditor to insure that executive sessions are recorded along with the necessary safeguards to protect those recordings."

Press Here for a Vancouver Columbian editorial that articulates the logical behind the bill, which has broad, bi-partisan support among state leaders. And Here for a similar editorial in The Seattle Times.

Comments | Category: FOIA , Open government |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

Recent entries

Apr 10, 08 - 11:45 AM
Secrecy spreads like fire in the Santa Ana winds

Mar 20, 08 - 08:15 AM
Public sees government secrecy on the rise

Mar 18, 08 - 12:05 PM
Update -- You can still catch some rays during Sunshine Week

Mar 13, 08 - 11:30 AM
Shining the light on your government

Feb 12, 08 - 09:30 AM
Seattle City Council back open-government bill



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