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Monday, November 28, 2011

Blogger barred from executive session of higher ed board

Are bloggers journalists? Not in some folks' eyes. Bill Harbaugh, the University of Oregon economics professor whose university-centered blog UO Matters is currently in its heyday, has been denied admission to the executive session of today's meeting of the state board of higher education. That's the meeting at which the board is expected to give the ax to the president of the U of O, Richard Lariviere. Throngs are expected to attend the event, at Portland State University, in protest.

The executive session will be held before the public portion of the meeting, and under a strange provision of Oregon law, journalists have the right to attend, but not report on what happens in, that first session. Harbaugh says that his blog is an established media outlet, but the state board, speaking through Diane Saunders, the p.r. flack for the chancellor's office, says he won't be admitted because he doesn't meet the standard of being a "news-gathering representative of institutionalized new media."

This issue has been played out to some extent in Lake Oswego, where blogger Mark Bunster started a controversy several years ago. According to a city policy developed in response to that case, a blog is "institutional" only if it has multiple contributors. We would submit that having multiple regular commentators, as Harbaugh does, fits that bill, but given Harbaugh's strong opinions and fearlessness in presenting them, we don't think that will sway the powers that be in his case.

We think there are serious First Amendment issues raised by Harbaugh's request, and by the state's attend-but-don't-report policies generally. Whatever happens this afternoon, we hope that Harbaugh sticks to his guns and does what it takes to get the doors open to bloggers, both solo and in groups, who contribute substantially to dissemination of public information and discussion of public policy.

Comments (8)

I get more breaking local news (and much more insightful commentary) from this site than OregonLive and PortlandTribune combined.

Maybe you are obligated to reprint press releases to qualify as a real journalist in Oregon?

This is the "oversight" provided by OUS that everyone is so afraid UO couldn't possibly live without.

UO matters does not have anything in common with journalism. He frequently rants, uses inappropriate references, and is basically using it as his stump for a vendetta he has with athletics and the Chancellor of the university system. The fact that he has nothing but time and is a conspiracy theorist does not make him a journalist.. just a tenured professor with nothing more to do than whine, stir up controversy, try to get quoted by any media outlet he can. Good call OUS, though I doubt this was their call and more the department of Justice.

Your blog, Jack, however is an actual legitimate operation, not just a spot for repetitive ranting against your boss.
I'd say you are worlds apart.

Dr. Lariviere can, at his own discretion, open up today's executive session to the public. The session is closed solely to protect Lariviere's privacy.

39 Op Atty Gen 480, January 12, 1979

A written personnel evaluation of a community college president is exempt from public inspection under ORS 341.290(19)(b), except with the consent of the college president involved. An executive session of the board may be held to consider such evaluation under ORS 192.660(2)(b), "to consider records that are exempt by law from public inspection." (ORS 192.660(2)(b) was amended by Oregon Laws 1979, chapter 644, section 5, and recodified as ORS 192.660(1)(f). ORS 341.290(19) was amended by Oregon Laws 1983, chapter 182, section 1, and recodified as ORS 341.290(17).)

Maybe if corporate print media news editors as well as corporate radio and TV news editors/directors would fight these shenanigans with threats of court actio...oh sorry how foolish of me. These organizations get away with this kind of nonsense because for too many years corporate media ALLOWED them to do so without so much as a whimper of protest. The way The O has handled the release of the PERS information (see Jack's blog above) shows how they're more into flash than substance.

I can't figure out if Jeff's comment is ironic or not.

The shenanigans pulled by Fronmeyer rival the city council here (namely the diversity plan affair) and Harbaugh is a brilliant and driven man chiefly committed to his students. If only every professor were like him college-shaped places might turn into institutions of higher learning. The UO administration lead by Fron hated when law got in the way of thirst for more power and money.

The problem with Harbaugh is that he is only in it for Harbaugh. Despite saying that he wants "transparency", he actually goes out of his way to protect the University by not reporting on one of the UO's largest legal expenditures (larger than the NCAA investigation), which is the Racketeering Scandal in the Dean of Students office.

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