Who wants to know? Oh, just a reporter... | Bleader

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who wants to know? Oh, just a reporter...

Posted By on 05.25.11 at 10:57 AM

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"Obtaining information from many Chicago and Cook County departments is so difficult that many journalists have given up trying."

So the Chicago Headline Club has concluded, after conducting a survey this year of "reporters' rights and access" that was funded by the McCormick Foundation.

"State and federal officials were generally more forthcoming but not perfectly transparent," the survey also found.

Here's a link to the executive summary of the Headline Club's report. Here's a link to the full report.

And here's a link to the various comments that local journalists who responded to the survey made about their experiences as information gatherers. Some of these comments are vastly more helpful than others.

For instance, there's this:

"Access to police reports in the City of Chicago has been ridiculously curtailed in recent years. A decade ago, it was common for reports to be available, especially in districts; now they are hardly ever available, and the PD rarely will go beyond the information contained in initial notifications in explaining any crime, including homicides. Until about 10 years ago, there was an accessible log of all FBI index crimes; that log is no longer available to journalists, and the only thing News Affairs makes public is a barely-maintained log of shootings and stabbings; this leaves out other violent crimes, major traffic accidents, thefts, and sex assaults, as well as child abuse incidents."

But also this:

"I’m a sports writer. Not really applicable."


"Illinois is a closed state. I had Illinois atty general’s freedom of information office intervene twice for public records. I can’t believe cook county medical examiner won’t release a cause of death when the investigation is pending. a homicide investigation doesn’t have bearing on the cause of death. I was denied my foia without a reason. When the state got involved, i still didn’t get the records but the agency was forced to give me a reason. another time the Chicago housing authority was taking it’s slow, sweet time with records—past the deadline. i sent an email that cc’d the atty general office. I got the info that day from cha."

And this:

"It’s just not something that’s at all central to what I do any longer."

And somebody replied, "My own perverse opinion is that FOI is a crutch for reporters who lack the skills to develop sources."

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