Generational Distinctions About Privacy Shape Today’s Media
ITHACA-In a room full of young, eager Park School reporters, Bob Freeman shared his experiences and views on the news world and injustices journalists have to cope with.
Freeman came to Ithaca College on Tuesday. From topics on the Freedom of Information Law to personal past experiences, he spoke about his transition of careers from journalism to C.O.O.G.: Committee on Open Government. He then proceeded to share how his background shaped his viewpoint on the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of the modern media.
Although Freeman was once a journalist, he now works for C.O.O.G: Committee on Open Government. Through this state government position, he offers advice to anyone who has a inquiry on public access to information. He provides closure for journalists who are being deprived of the information they need for a story; if they are kicked out of meeting, can’t get the quote, etc. If a reporter needs clarity on facts for a report, he/she calls Bob Freeman and Freeman gives his opinion on the consistency of the information given.
Journalists are being denied information, Freeman believes, because government officials are not honoring the Freedom of Information Law.
He addressed how he believes government officials mistreat the Freedom of Information Law. The Freedom of Information Law, passed in 1974, states that any documents generated by any government are public information, with pardon to lawsuits, personal records, etc. Freeman delved a little deeper, stating, “Everything should be open except to the extent that disclosure would hurt.”
However, getting access to the full scoop of information is harder and harder these days. It’s rare to be able to talk directly to a government agency representative who is involved in the area of interest for a reporter’s story. Nowadays, reporters only have access to Public Relations people who have had no hands-on experience with the information they’re doling out. They’re simply telling reporters what the government agency wants them to say, dishing out the best and shiniest sides of the situation.
“Government touches everything.” Freeman said. “You want to get as much information as you can.” He continued on to encourage reporters to get every side of a story, saying that society needs more smart, professional journalists; truth seekers and truth tellers.
Some government officials even refuse to share information with reporters. When journalists approach officials and state the Freedom of Information Law, they are still denied their right to the material.
Freeman used an example of a reporter who came to him for closure on Ed Koch; a former NY governor who had strong, brash beliefs on Obama. Rumors circled Koch about his sexuality as well, and the reporter had requested to see his calendar of past events for a post on Koch
Koch, who stated that it wasn’t a government document, denied it. According to him, it was personal information and was unrelated to the government so he had no pressure to release it to the press.
Freeman begged to differ. To this day, the Freedom Act doesn’t clarify what a government document is. In Freeman’s mind, anything concerning past events of a government official should be open to the public because it qualifies as a government document.
Freeman finished by saying that although different generations have shaped the definition for privacy, journalists still should have the right to legally access the government information they need. He handed out contact information in hopes that journalists would contact him if they can’t access the information for a story they rightfully deserve.
For more detail or contact information, you can email Bob Freeman at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 518-474-2518.