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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 19, 2010 8:46 AM. The previous post in this blog was Interest rates are on the rise. The next post in this blog is Time for another round of "Who Had the Pickle?". Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Lake O to treat solo bloggers, gang bloggers differently

Lake Oswego's city attorney has taken up the fruitless task of trying to define what "media" is these days. He's trying to interpret a crazy feature of the state's "open meetings" law that allows public bodies to meet in private executive sessions, with the "media" present but the public excluded. The law states that the "media" is not allowed to publish anything they see or hear at these semi-secret meetings.

The whole concept is absurd, but adding to the folly nowadays is the fact that nobody knows what "media" means any more. And so now, thanks to some troublemaking by the infamous Mark Bunster, the city is trying to draw that line. They've been relying heavily on the mainstream media in doing the interpretive work, and of course the product they have come up with discriminates heavily in favor of mainstream outlets. Here's from the Trib's version of the latest draft:

Right off the bat, the policy defines media as any organization that has been previously recognized as eligible to attend executive sessions, such as The Oregonian and the Lake Oswego Review.

Secondly, anyone who is a member of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, Oregon Association of Broadcasters or the Associated Press will be addmited [sic].

Any newspaper that the local government uses for publishing public notices would also be admissible. Open Oregon urged the inclusion of this requirement because some small, rural newspapers may not be members of ONPA or AP but are still well-established media insitutions [sic] in their communities.

To address non-traditional media, there is a two-part test. First, it must be organized and regularly publishing, broadcasting or transmitting news that reports on local government. Second, it must be “institutionalized” and committed to uphold the law regarding executive session. Institutionalized is defined to mean that an entity must have multiple personnel, must have names and contact information of personnel readily available and has a process for correcting errors.

Does this blog have "multiple personnel"? Not unless you count commenters and people who send in tips that are reproduced here. Whereas I would guess an outlet like Blue Oregon Loaded Orygun, for which Bunster sometimes writes, would qualify. Is this blog "organized"? I have no idea what that even means.

Not that it matters all that much to me. If you ever see me writing about wanting to attend an executive session of the Lake Oswego City Council, please take me out and shoot me. But I don't think the line they're drawing is going to be tenable, and if it is actually adopted, at some point it will surely be tested in court. If Portland tries it, I might see you at the courthouse.

Comments (13)

Having served on a Board subject to Oregon Open Meeting Laws, and participated in the whole Exec Session discussions (real estate purchase strategy, personnel performance reviews, etc), I do see the value in keeping the existing structure intact.

I would feel very uncomfortable talking Exec Session stuff with Carla Axman scorched-earth, hyper-partisan, know-no-bounds, take-no-prisoners type of bloggers in the room. I have zero faith that she would keep secret what she hears in Exec Session, especially if she could gain a partisan political advantage with the information somehow.

But having said all that, I do think that bloggers are journalists, and perform the role of government watchdog better than some MSM members. The whole purpose of allowing the press into Exec Sessions in their observer-only role, was to watch over these Exec Sessions, to insure that the public servants would not abuse the secret EC mtgs, but would only use them for their intended and very limited purposes.

Lake Oswego seems to be limiting their definition of the press a bit much.

It's a global question; the chief problem is that it's a gray area being both used with care and exploited with indifference.

The EFF has a take on it:
http://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal/journalists/privilege

It's a two-part question, I think: (1)are bloggers journalists? and (2)should bloggers enjoy the legal privileges traditionally afforded journalists?

Most small-scale blogs, however, are not engaged in journalistic standards and attempting to "report news" and disseminate it to the public. That seems like a reasonable definition to me. Most small-scale blogs seem overwhelmingly to be opinion-based--meaning that even if they report on an event, there's a slant and personal opinion attached.

So, for example--my former blog wouldn't be considered journalism or enjoy journalist protections, I don't think. Neither would blueoregon.com, for another example, or dailykos.com.

For that matter, Fox News probably shouldn't either. Which brings the questions to an interesting application:

SHould Fox News be considered journalism, and enjoy journalists legal protection?

Harry=chicken.

LOL

If you look at a guy like The One True b!X who used to run all over town attending meetings, etc., you had an individual who is providing a public service by reporting on matters (i.e. "news")that traditional media outlets didn't seem to care about. Or this blog, where Jack gets an occasional tip or lead from a member of the public and is actually given credit by the traditional media outlets for breaking news. Maybe these individuals don't consider themselves "journalists" in the traditional sense, but they do engage in journalistic activities by breaking news that they sourced on their own as opposed to just commenting on news that is already out there. My impression is that the Lake O law is unconstitutional in that its restriction against individuals is not rational because individuals regularly break news through their blogs.

It's all about control of the media.

"Journalists are not allowed to report on what occurs in executive sessions but are trusted to monitor whether the talks abide by state law."

So if they can't report, how do they correct it when those in executive session do not "abide by state law"?

And "the People" have to rely only on those that do dead tree and broadcast media?

Public bodies should have all their meetings streamed. There is no excuse in this day not to make the meetings available to all who wish to view the internet stream. It does not need to be interpreted by a journalist or otherwise. If it's a public issue, then "private executive sessions" is B.S.

I sit on the Board for Legal Aid (LASO and the OLC). Executive Sessions are absolutely necessary when we need to discuss union contract negotiations, for instance.

Most small-scale blogs, however, are not engaged in journalistic standards and attempting to "report news" and disseminate it to the public.

And large scale media outlets are "engaged" in these standards - really? What are you trying to say?

It's a global question; the chief problem is that it's a gray area being both used with care and exploited with indifference.

I'm so relieved that's settled? What are you trying to say?

It's a two-part question, I think: (1)are bloggers journalists? and (2)should bloggers enjoy the legal privileges traditionally afforded journalists?

So that makes it a global, two-part question?

What's the second part of the two-part part? If bloggers are journalists - then there is no second question. What are you trying to say?

SHould Fox News be considered journalism, and enjoy journalists legal protection?

Ahhhh, NOW we get to the point.

I should have known.

Oh, cc--you're like a mosquito circling a bug light.

"Does this blog have "multiple personnel"? "

Hire your kid to take pictures. Either a meeting is open or it is not and I'd rather have it open. The closed door session is usually where all the garbage they don't want people to know about happens.

I gotta admit, though, the idea of Mr Bog in the same room with TorridTroll would be an event worth reporting, heck with the LO City Council.

All this time I thought 'LOL' stands for Lake Oswego Losers. Suspicions confirmed.

One thing everyone agrees is that some fashion of writing, written words, is a required ingredient in the definition of 'journalism.' So pre-readers and illiterates are not in journalism's target audience. So Rush Limbaugh is not a journalist. So Larson's intro 'bump' indentifying his programming as "talk journalism" makes him LIARS.

"So if they can't report, how do they correct it when those in executive session do not "abide by state law"?"

I'll tell you how I did it when I was a full-time correspondent freelancer for The O. The local Education Service District board was holding an exec session. I was attending b/c they had a hinky supt and supine board. I forget what the ostensible reason for the session was, but at some point they all began to wander off the subject and discuss what they were really upset about.

I raised my hand and said politely, "You are no longer discussing the subject matter you cited when you closed this meeting. Therefore, I will begin to cover it." I pulled out my ballpoint pen and began to write. The meeting broke up.

Years later, the man who had been the chairman of the board spoke to me at a party for mutual friends of ours. (I was no longer reporting for The O.) He asked if I remembered that meeting. I said I'd never forget it.

"I just wanted to thank you for stopping us. I was pretty angry at the time, but later I realized you were right." Very generous, but by that time the hinky supt had been found out and fired for financial sloppiness.

Anyway, that's how a reporter can "correct it when those in executive session do not "abide by state law..."

Having official secrets between reporters and politicians is a terrible policy. Far from protecting the public, it does just the opposite. If I were a reporter in Oregon, I'd refuse to attend an executive session. I'd work to find out what happened at it, and report it.


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