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FSU ADV 3352 - Chapter 9- Gathering Information

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Chapter 9- Gathering Information• Public records- the press’ ability to gather information, where do they get it from and how do they access it from the governmentThree Sources of Law Concerning Access to Government Information: 3 essential areas of law that give press ability to access to government documents• Common Law- limited; strict limitations, Body of cases made my government. Limitations:o Must have interest in the record Main interest: Party to a litigation- some person who has fled a lawsuit or is defending a lawsuit and needs a particular document in order to best present their caseo Only records required to be kept are subject to disclosure Problem- lots of documents are not required to be kept Has to be something the government is required to keep, but they are not required to keep a lot of documents• Constitutional Law- (First Amendment)o Original intent: to provide a means for the public to confront the government, not for the press to report on the government’s activitieso SC held in 2 cases that the press does not have special access to prisons beyond that of normal citizens Since normal citizens don’t have the right to interview prisoners, neither does the press Constitution provides some access, when it comes to prisoners, the constitution does not provide access to interview those prisoners SC also held that the press has the right to attend criminal trials.• Criminal trials- press and individuals have a right to attendo Even though there is no first amendment right, the officials use the press a lot to get out their messageo Not a big source when getting access to government information• Statutory Law- (State and Federal)o In 1950s, many states began to pass statutes that guaranteed the public and the press access to records and other information that is held by the government Florida was one of the first Mostly referring to state lawso Freedom of Information Act (1966) (FOIA) Very important for the press, particularly for the press’ right to get access to documents that were held by the federal government Problem: broadness on how much the press is able to access depends on how the federal government wants to interpret the law at any given time Ex: President Bush took a narrow view of the law, the press was not given access to a lot of different documents• In 2002 Bush signed Homeland Security Act- had a provision that made any critical infrastructure information that’s voluntarily submitted to the federal government, specifically to Homeland Security, by private people and businesses was exempt from the freedom of information act.• The provision basically precluded people or the press from accessing documents that were voluntarily submitted by people that talked about the critical infrastructure of particular buildings• Problem: people can withhold all health and safety problems that they have in those buildings as long as they submit the info. Voluntarily to the government• Ex: People that own Water Plants, etc. with problems can withhold from the presso Public Records or Sunshine LawsFreedom of Information Act (FOIA)• Broadness depends on how the government interprets it• Recap the Rules:o Only applies to federal agencies, not Congress and not Federal Courtso Must be a record, including electronic records What constitutes a record: all written or electronic documents, also: films, tapes, photographs, and any kind of document that may be held, even if held by private contractors• 9 important exemptions- say even though the record meets the definition of the record, the document would be subject to disclosureo Ex: National Security measures, trade secrets, law enforcement records, personnel rules, information to current litigation, etc.** look in book!Video: FOIA• Purpose of FOIA and exceptions is to protect the well being and safety of American citizens, while balancing the publics right to know what is going on in its government Video: How to and How not to Request Info from the FOIA• From who may I request information?o Agencies of the executive Branch of the Federal Government, Cabinet offices, Independently Regulated Government Agencies, Government-Controlled Corporations, and Other establishments• From who should I NOT request information?o About President and staff, Congress, Federal Courts, Private Corporations, and many more• What do you ask for?o Anything that is filed and controlled by government agencies, some things they can not release however• How shall I make my request?o Informally by phone or email, it is best to write a formal letterState Public Record Laws • Florida’s right to public access comes from the statute and the Florida constitution• Vary form state to state• Provide certain records are public• General principles:o Doesn’t matter why you want it or who you are, as long as it falls within the definition Ex: Government salaries are considered a public record, a state employee can figure out what other state employees makeo Applies to records kept by state agencies, can include administrative agency (ex: Fl department of transportation). Can also apply to cities, counties, etc.o Applies to all emails of government employees at these agencieso Various exemptions- classified information, trade secrets, department preliminary papersFlorida’s Public Records Laws• Florida is one of the first states to enact law• Source: Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes• Major problem: Once given to government, document becomes a public recordo Example: FSU and NCAAChapter 11- Free Press & Fair Trial• How one right may infringe on the other, the more publicity, the more likely that jurors and judges are to remain impartialStories that Endanger the Right to a Fair Trial• Stories about confessionso Extremely dangerous because they put a lot of stock into confessions Why would they confess if they didn’t do ito Happens all the time, because of police, because they are insane, because they want to confesso Can be taken back later: haven’t slept, police, insane, etc.o Ex: Timothy McVeigh- accused and convicted of the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building there Transcripts say how new scripts written prior to his trial really endangered his right to a fair trial• Polygraph resultso If find out they were lying about something and story was published, people put a lot of stock into that• Past criminal historyo Not admissible


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