FOIA-gone conclusion?


Government entities are figuring out that they can forestall the press by stonewalling on releasing information, counting on dwindling media income and profit margins to keep efforts to dig up facts at bay, according to Brian Maass of CBS O&O KCNC-TV in Denver. "The media seems less and less willing to fight back and to challenge government authority in a legal sense," he told attendees at a Denver Press Club session. The session was one of a series put on throughout the country by the National Press Club. Maass said that government entities have come to realize that there is “less fight” in the press’s battle for information, so they are often able to restrict information knowing that the media likely will not foot the bill to force its release.

The internet is thought by many to be a factor – more people have access to more sources of information than ever before, but it diminishes the largest news organizations which at one time had the wherewithal to challenge a stubborn government and fulfill the traditional watchdog role of the press.

The Denver Post’s Mark Cardwell said that some websites are pulling in big numbers, but they aren’t turning around and reinvesting it in government info challenges. His organization is currently in court seeking state government information, but he said similar efforts at the national level are more difficult, "they know its expensive to sue and the news media don’t have a lot of money."

RBR/TVBR observation: Maass’s observation may well be true, but at the same time, a person sitting in an apartment in Hilo HI can access FCC documents that not so long ago would have been available only by visiting the Commission’s reference room in person, or by hiring somebody to do so. This publication used to rely on both our own legwork and that of hired hands, back in the days when we also relied on snailmail to get our information out to our clientele – info that by today’s standards would be considered hopelessly stale. The situation with the media now is quite fluid, and we may come up with cost-effective ways to battle the government for information, even as legislators and bureaucrats may inject more openness and transparency back into government work to help us out.