Archive for the ‘FOIA’ Category

By Matt Chaney

A panel of FOIA experts expressed mixed opinions about the state of open government in Virginia at the VPA/SPJ Region 2 Conference on Saturday (April 9).


David Ress

The panelists said that while gains have been made for transparency, much remains to be done to hold government officials on all levels more accountable. They also emphasized that while the Freedom of Information Act is important to journalists, it exists to benefit the public.

“It’s up to us to keep pushing. While the law is the law, we can put the pressure on to say it’s the public who has the right to know,” Dave Ress, a reporter for the Daily Press of Newport News said.



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We’re excited to announce the full line up of panels and workshops for the Virginia Press Association/Society of Professional Journalists Conference April 8-9 in Short Pump, Va.

The following programming is included with the purchase of a ticket through SPJ. You can purchase tickets here.

Friday Activities

2-4:30 p.m. Job/Internship Fair featuring representatives from The Daily Press, Richmond Magazine, Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot
Clips and resume critique

7-11 p.m. Screening of “Spotlight”

Saturday Panels

Keynote Speaker: (during the SPJ luncheon) T. Rees Shapiro, Reporter, The Washington Post (during the luncheon, the Mark of Excellence Awards will be presented)

Our Right to Know: The Future of Open Access

This roundtable discussion will explore the ongoing legal battle to open up circuit court case databases to the public, the ongoing proposals to revise the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, and how the General Assembly came down on FOIA/access issues in the 2016 session.
Moderator: Marisa Porto, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, Daily Press Media Group, VPA President
Panelists: Dave Ress, Reporter, Daily Press; Megan Rhyne, Executive Director, Virginia Coalition for Open Government; Ginger Stanley, Executive Director, Virginia Press Association

Case Study in Tragedy: WDBJ

Hear from those affected by the August 2015 shooting of two WDBJ7 journalists and their interviewee as they discuss the practical and ethical conversations media organizations need to take when covering a tragedy in their newsroom.
Moderator: Nicole Livas, Veteran Broadcaster
Panelists: Kelly Zuber, News Director, WDBJ7, Roanoke; Ryan Parkhurst, Assistant Professor of Journalism, James Madison University; Brad Jenkins, General Manager, The Breeze

So You Want to be An International Reporter: Hear From Those Who Have Done It and How You Can Do the Same
Learn what it takes to become a foreign correspondent from journalists who have headed overseas bureaus and covered wars, disasters and other news all over the world. Renew your passport, start taking Rosetta Stone lessons and come to this session for a primer on going global.
Session leaders: David Lynch, Correspondent, Washington bureau of the Federal Times; Suzanne McBride, Interim Chair, Communication and the Media Innovation, Columbia College Chicago; Paul Wiseman, International Economics Writer, The Associated Press

Using Unmanned Aerial Systems for Newsgathering
Discussion about the future of unmanned aerial systems and their applications in news gathering. Learn about current and proposed regulations and what they mean for the future of aerial photography.
Moderator: Evan Jones, The Southside Messenger
Panelists: Charles Tobin, Partner, Holland & Knight; Daryl Watkins, Founder, Creative Dog Media; Gary Gillam, Career Videographer and Producer; Jeff South, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Robertson School of Media and Culture, VCU

The State of the Mid-Atlantic News Media and the Climate of Today’s News Outlets
Newsrooms have undergone multiple changes over the past year – from how we deliver news, to the audiences we target, to how we report. Our speakers will discuss the status of their newsrooms, how they’ve managed the changes and what they see for the future of news.
Session leaders: Steve Gunn, Editor, The Virginian-Pilot; Paige Mudd, Editor, The Richmond Times-Dispatch


Sharpen Your Social Media Skills: How to Use It to Expand Your Reach and Attract More Readers
These days your social media presence is just as important as your stories. Hear from pros who will tell you about today’s social media landscape and how to best navigate it for the highest impact.
Session Leaders: Bob Bennett, Senior Producer, WAVY-TV/WVBT-TV Norfolk; Alix Bryan, Interactive Producer, WTVR-TV CBS6 Richmond; Bryan Devasher, Breaking News Reporter, Richmond Times-Dispatch

New Products and Existing Products: “Steal Our Ideas”
How are news organizations in Virginia adjusting to find new sources of revenue and audience? We invite you to bring your ideas and to hear about the success the Richmond Times-Dispatch had with expanding its Discover Richmond magazine franchise.
Session Leaders: Paige Mudd, Editor, Richmond Times-Dispatch; Lewis Brissman, Editor, Discover Richmond

Stop Errors in Their Tracks: Copy Editing for Everyone
With fewer copy editors at local newspapers, reporters have to be their own copy editors. Panelists will offer tips about how to write cleaner copy, making reporters and their publications look smarter. Learn basic copy editing tips that will take you far no matter what kind of stories you write.
Session Leaders: Karen Denny, Director, Annapolis Bureau, Maryland Capital News Service; Suzanne Wardle, Copy Editor & Books Editor, The Roanoke-Times

Ethics Advice: How to Act When You Find Yourself in Questionable Situations
Ethical thinking is like a muscle. Use it often to keep it strong. Explore and talk through sticky situations with an expert.
Session Leader: Paul Fletcher, Publisher, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and SPJ National President



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The Virginia Coalition for Open Government will hold its annual conference in Fredericksburg on Nov. 12.

It’s a day full of workshops and panels on topics related to open government in Virginia.

This year’s topics include:

  • Data collection, body cams and privacy
  • The 2015 Virginia elections and what they mean for open government in the Commonwealth
  • Databases: Not just a Virginia Supreme Court problem
  • “Private” emails and texts: Not just a Hillary Clinton problem
  • Getting schooled on access: getting information from public universities isn’t as easy as A-B-C

For more details, and registration information, go here.

Our chapter is a sponsor of this conference and we encourage our members to attend.


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Despite opposition from journalism and open government groups, the Virginia State Board of Elections has pushed back the deadline for campaign finance reports to 11:59 p.m. The reports used to be due at 5 p.m. before complains from politicians.

“While the change makes it easier for those who file, it makes it more difficult for reporters who cover campaigns in a timely way,” Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association President Craig Carper told the board, as reported by The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The change came without public notice or comment before Gov. Terry McAuliffe asked the board to seek public input.  Politicians had complained about the deadline, which has led to fines for multiple campaigns.

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UPDATE: Due to inclement weather in Richmond and areas north, we are working on a new date for tonight’s Sunshine Week event. Thanks for you patience, and we’ll update as soon as we have new details.

– Pat Kane

In celebration of Sunshine Week 2014, SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter members and friends are invited to learn a new tool for uncovering government secrets.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press recently launched iFOIA, a new FOIA letter generator and project management system for handling local, state and federal freedom of information requests. On Monday, March 17 RCFP Freedom of Information Fellow Emily Grannis will make a presentation on taking advantage of this new system.
During the event, we would love to hear about a FOIA-driven project that helped you uncover something in your community. Equally, let’s share the struggles Virginia journalists are encountering with freedom of information requests.
Also, SPJ Secretary-Treasurer Paul Fletcher will offer a recap of action related to FOIA, public notice and other issues during the General Assembly session. For the past two sessions, Fletcher has monitored the legislature on behalf of our membership and citizens.
Our Sunshine Week event will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 17 in the second-floor conference room at 707 E. Main St. in Richmond. We hope to see you there! Please RSVP with an e-mail to virginiaprospj@gmail.com so we have a head count for snacks.

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House Bill 95, which would have stripped public notices from newspapers and shifted them to local government websites, died in subcommittee this morning. The bill, filed by Del. Chris Head, R-Roanoke, was opposed by the Virginia Press Association and SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter as a matter of the public’s right to know.

The bill failed 6-3, said SPJ Secretary-Treasurer Paul Fletcher, who spoke against the bill.

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SPJ members are invited to hear from the governor-elect and also question experts about the Affordable Care Act and other health care issues at this year’s Virginia AP Day at the Capital, scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Gov.-Elect Terry McAuliffe is confirmed as our lunch speaker. We’ll also have a panel on health care that will discuss the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Virginia. For the remainder of the day, we’ll hear about Ethics/Disclosure and about FOIA.

The day-long session is sponsored by Virginia AP Managing Editors, the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association and the Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Special thanks to the Richmond Times-Dispatch for agreeing to host the event this year.

Registration for AP Day at the Capitol costs just $15 a person and includes lunch. The Times-Dispatch, located at 300 E. Franklin St., will provide parking free of charge. To register for this event, email Marylean Miller at mlmiller@ap.org. Please provide her with the following information:

·         The name of your paper
·         The names and titles of those attending
·         Whether any attendees have dietary restrictions

Checks should be made payable to Virginia AP Newspapers. The registration deadline is Friday, Nov. 29.

AP Day at the Capital – 2013 agenda

9 – 9:30 a.m. — registration and coffee
9:30 – 11 a.m. —  Ethics/Disclosure
Moderator:  Bob Holsworth, managing partner at DecideSmart
·         Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government
·         Del. Robert Marshall, R-Prince William County
·         Nicholas Kusnetz, reporter for the Center for Public Integrity
·         Rosalind Helderman, Congress and politics reporter for The Washington Post

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. – FOIA
Moderator: Dick Hammerstrom, local news editor, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
·         Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government
·         Maria Everett, senior attorney, Virginia Division of Legislative Services
·         Ginger Stanley, executive director, Virginia Press Association

12:30 – 1:30 p.m. – Lunch with Gov.-Elect Terry McAuliffe

1:45 – 3:15 p.m. – Health care
Moderator: Michael Martz of the Richmond Times-Dispatch
·         Doug Gray, executive director, Virginia Association of Health Plans
·         Sen. Emmett Hanger, chairman of the Medicaid and Innovate and Reform Commission
·         Another panelist or panelists still to be confirmed

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