Newspapers working for the public

Can you spot what’s odd about the story below?

How open is open?
13 March 2005

Reporters at the Bristol Herald Courier participated in Sunshine Week, a nationwide effort to test the accessibility of public records.

Five members of the Bristol Herald Courier staff fanned out across the region March 3 to assess local governments’ compliance with Freedom of Information laws.

Answer – this is Bristol, USA not Bristol UK. Why aren’t we seeing local newspapers in the UK doing these kinds of Freedom of Information Audits? An important role of the media is to give a voice to the common man/woman. Local media should be pressing for our rights to attend meetings and access government information. The best way to do this is for reporters to ask for information or go to a meeting as a regular citizen. The media, in particular local media, have a civic obligation to shine a light on the goings-on of local councils. Too few reporters now do this. In part because of staff cutbacks, but also because of a mistaken belief that the public aren’t interested.

Having seen the packed town halls for local meetings in America and bursting letter bags that came into our local newspaper, I cannot believe the public don’t care. If they don’t it is for two reasons: they don’t know what is going on and/or they believe nothing they do can make a difference. Journalists play a major part in educating people about civic structures. They can also give people a voice when they are ignored by a public authority. When journalists ignore this part of their job, they are letting down not only the media but all of us.

So let’s see some FOI audits!

One Response to “Newspapers working for the public”

  1. Interesting Story.. Keep up the good work

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