There will always be give and take between journalists who want to bring facts to light and government officials who want to keep some facts secret. The Radio Television News Directors Association is asking the Obama administration to err on the side of disclosure.
Barbara Cochran, president of RTNDA, said, “President-elect Obama has the opportunity to lead by example and guarantee open government for U.S. citizens. By taking these steps to extend transparency, the new president can reverse a climate of government secrecy that has prevailed for too long.”
RTNDA listed four steps to “reverse the climate of secrecy in Washington.”
1. Restore the presumption of disclosure across the executive branch. Federal agencies should exercise their discretion to withhold information under the Freedom of Information Act only when a foreseeable harm would result from disclosure.
2. Create an independent, online ombudsman to help citizens access their government. The Obama administration should quickly ramp up the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives and Records Administration to mediate disclosure disputes.
3. Ban agencies from proposing or endorsing unnecessary statutory exemptions from disclosure. Any new laws proposed or supported by the administration to specifically exempt certain information from disclosure should be limited in scope and life and include oversight.
4. Speak on the record, and urge his senior deputies and aides to do the same, in all statements about policy and current news about public matters.
RBR/TVBR observation: Predictions about the effects of an Obama presidency on broadcasters are flying throughout the trade press, but in this case, it seems clear that Obama has made open government a priority. If Obama is as good as his word. RTNDA should be pleased.