OLD Media Moves

The fight for public records

February 15, 2010

Tim Arango of the New York Times looks Monday at how some media organizations continue to fight, despite the cost, for government records believed public.

Arango writes, “On appeals, The A.P., which last year hired a new in-house lawyer, Karen Kaiser, will send documents, sometimes just a letter, that often resemble full legal briefs to agencies being tight with information. ‘We give them a taste of what a lawsuit looks like,’ Mr. Tomlin said.

“Last year, according to Ms. Kaiser, The A.P. appealed over 40 denied F.O.I.A. requests, and 28 have been resolved, 24 of them successfully. ‘The decision was made to be more aggressive because we believed it was the only way to force agencies to comply with the law,’ she said.

“In one case last year, The A.P. sought appointment calendars and schedules for the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, as well as correspondence between Mr. Geithner and Wall Street chief executives.

“After seven months of back-and-forth discussions, Ms. Kaiser drafted a complaint that she was prepared to file in federal court in New York. With the threat of a lawsuit, the Treasury Department released the documents.

“Another case involved data from the Transportation Department that The A.P. had requested about the cash-for-clunkers program. After four months, The A.P. filed an appeal, and the department relented. The data was released ā€” 13,000 pagesā€™ worth ā€” on the Web.”

Read more here.

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