Local Spotlight


Loaded Orygun has been working on getting bloggers access to city meetings, designated as closed sessions that only journalists are allowed to attend.  The city drafted a new policy for local media regarding attending sessions. “The policy stems from a Lake Oswego incident in July 2008 when Mark Bunster, author of political blog Loaded Orygun, unsuccessfully insisted he was a member of the media who could attend a closed session about the city’s $110 million sewer interceptor project. Oregon law allows media representatives to attend but not report directly from executive sessions.”

Here is his take on the proposed policy:

Briefly, I wanted to follow up on yesterday’s story about the new policy drafted to handle media requests for attendance at local government Executive Sessions, by linking up to The O’s story on the matter published this morning. I’m quoted a couple of times, and while the quotes are generally accurate, the tone seems a touch petulant, like I’m sour-grapesing my way through the issue because I had been refused. I think under a reasonable definition of “media” Loaded Orygun should qualify, but that’s not really the point, and if a system was proposed that ended up excluding me for some justifiable reason, I don’t think I’d have an objection.

But the problem is that not only would this policy tend to shut someone like me out, it would also restrict bloggers far more professional, regular and talented than myself. What if David Niewert, aka Orcinus, had only his webpage (and Crooks and Liars, where he is managing editor but I’m not aware of any original journalism they do there) and his books as his credential? Does Orcinus have a letterhead, or editors for that matter? Before TalkingPointsMemo became a full-fledged journo outfit, it was simply Josh Marshall, freelance journalist. Big no for him if he wanted to attend an Exec? Or how about Marcy Wheeler, who when known in her writings simply as “emptywheel,” was the prime journalistic mover on L’affair du Plame? As someone without a real-name byline on her posts, she’d be viewed with skepticism as well.

And as I noted yesterday, the entire principle of a preemptively restrictive eligibility for attending sessions is both upside down relative to the point of the law and the need for it (ie, that ALL public meetings should be open, and if there are exceptions they should be tightly regulated and as open as possible), and to the known problem the lack of a detailed policy has caused in Oregon (which to my knowledge is none). It’s a solution in search of a problem.

Read more here.

This is a good first step but there is room for improvement.  With the decreasing numbers of local journalists it is important to let people who want to cover their local communities have access to these kinds of meetings.