Saturday, April 26, 2008

More on access to public information

My students at GRCC, in the JR 257 Reporting class, again ran into problems obtaining public information from the college. I have done the same assignment at GVSU with no problem, but GRCC is not cooperating with student requests for information. It is perplexing and disturbing. This gets me frustrated and a bit angry.
I want my students to learn to be journalists - or at least what it's like to be a journalist. I guess this is a teachable moment for them. The truth is, not everyone will cooperate. Even when they are required to by law.
The funny thing is, what starts as a simple request for public information can escalate when public information is not turned over as requested. The questions are natural for reporters: What are they hiding? Why aren't they handing over the information? What is really going on?
While officials apparently are trying to keep information from reporters, they are actually only heightening the interest in that information.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Journalism Awards

Spring seems to be a popular season for both entering and learning outcomes for journalism awards. A couple weeks ago, I was proud to accompany two members of The Collegiate, the GRCC student newspaper, to the Michigan Community College Press Association conference in Monroe. Collegiate staff won 21 total awards.
The most noteworthy award was for best online publication - for This is the latest attempt for The Collegiate to have an online edition. I believe it is the best and most likely to stand the test of time (at least for a while). It is informative, interesting and visual. It provides much of the print content, but also web-original content, with polls, videos and blogs.
One of the funny things about awards is that many journalists get very excited about them. However, they are a difficult animal to figure out. Awards are often determined arbitrarily, sometimes with one person looking over material. They do not always represent the best work, but sometimes the most interesting topic. For many reasons, journalists should not strive simply for awards. Nor should they hang their hats on winning one award.
Having said that, it was very exciting for Collegiate staff members to learn recently they won the Apple Award - a national honor bestowed from College Media Advisers.... More on that story to come soon.....

Monday, April 7, 2008

More on access to information

A few comments have led me to follow-up the last post on access to information at GRCC. First, I have no immediate reason to believe the college is intentionally withholding information from the public. I want that to be clear.
However, I do also strongly believe that access can be severely limited even in unintentional ways. That's what I see going on now. If things like the college budget and faculty salary book are not made more easily available, then eventually my opinion may change. For now, I'm in a wait and see mode.
The comments are accurate when they wonder why access is not more easily obtained. That's what happens in these situations - individuals are left to wonder. That should not be the case.
I have heard that faculty members don't like the salary book available for viewing. My response: Get over it. GRCC is a publicly funded institution - salaries are public information. The only reason I can imagine a faculty member would not want information to be made available is for possible embarrassment. The only reason to be embarrassed is if the facts would show salaries are too high.
As this string of comments and posts shows, holding back information is not good for anyone. It leads to guessing, assuming and speculation.