Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oregon attempts to define "journalists" for executive sessions

Continuing the discussion on developing a media access policy for state legislatures, the city of Lake Oswego, Oregon had some problems earlier in the year and have come up with this solution. Political blogger Mark Bunster was thrown out of one of the city's executive sessions as a precaution because the city councillors did not have a media policy, and they weren't sure what to do with him. Read the Oregonian story here.

What I found particularly interesting is that Oregon even allows media into their executive sessions. Here, when a committee goes into executive session, the session is closed, usually due to private and/or sensitive matters being discussed. Oregon's policy is that "representatives of the news media are allowed to attend most executive sessions in order to act as 'watchdogs', ensuring that the governing body does not conduct an executive session for a purpose not permitted under the law. While the statu[t]es allow the governing body to 'require' that executive session information not be disclosed (ORS 192.660(4)) they are silent as to what, if any, remedy the governing body has if news media violate this requirement."

Media are not allowed to attend executive sessions that involve labor negotiations.

Now Lake Oswego has proposed the following media policy, still in draft form, that may have other government and legislative bodies within the state following suit. You can read the entire draft policy here. Or, take a look at the following highlights and see if this sounds reasonable to you:

The Oregonian and The Lake Oswego Review are recognized as media organizations without further proof because of their established history.

Other organizations must provide evidence that they are established, such as:

*They are organized and operated to publish, broadcast or disseminate news to the public.
*They ordinarily and regularly report on matters of a nature typically considered and acted upon by the Lake Oswego City Council.
*They are insitutionalized, with multiple personnel with defined roles in an organizational structure.

*They are accountable, meaning...
+They are registered with the Secretary of State's Office,
+Names, addresses and telephone numbers readily available,
+News reports include true name of staff reporter,
+Identifies any outside news source,
+Has established process for any allegation that news staff has violated policy,
+Practices are consistent with SPJ Code of Ethics.

*They are well-established and reports news continuously, at least weekly, and permanently.
*Entity contains at least 25% news content
*They distinguish news contect from advocacy (analysis, commentary and advertising clearly labeled as such.)

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