Should J-School professors fear FOIA?

Journalism professors, especially those teaching Public Affairs Reporting courses, routinely tell their students that Freedom of Information Act Requests are useful tools in rooting out the truth in a situation.

And sometimes, if a journalist has a gut feeling, a FOIA request fishing expedition isn’t the worst thing. After all, if the reporter doesn’t find anything, what harm was done?

So will these professors change their tune now that FOIA requests are targeting them?

The requests started in Wisconsin as tempers continue to flare over public unions and moved to Michigan last week. Coverage of the Mackinac Center’s FOIA requests has been consistent and balanced. How can media complain about FOIA requests?

Clarence Page, most often associated as a liberal columnist, wrote this about FOIAs.

While the question of FOIA for political purposes is still hot in many Midwesterners minds, how about examination of a professor’s emails over a University dispute? Northwestern University dismissed professor David Prosser, whose Investigative Journalism class has freed innocent men sentenced to death,

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and accused him of lying and doctoring emails at work. The Daily Northwestern, the University’s student newspaper wrote this about the news. Most businesses tell their employees to assume that any e-mail they write is accessible by anybody. Academics are finding this out, for good or bad.

In Ohio, universities are in the news as well, with budget cuts affecting Ohio universities. The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote this about the budget. The Illinois Times wrote this about University of Illinois professors receiving raises while raising the price of tuition.

In Iowa, university budgets are also in the news, but with a difference. A rider cutting preschool budgets has placed in the bill.

Missouri, Tennessee and Oklahoma must still deal with Sharia Law questions and a columnist in Oklahoma finds Lady Gaga offensive. Imagine that.


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