February 17, 2005
(Updated) Senators Introduce Bill Guaranteeing FOIA Privileges To Bloggers
Part Of Legislation Advancing Openness In Government
Note: This post has been updated. Any and all updates appear at the end of the original post.
We don't normally spend too much time here on the meta conversation in which people blog about blogging, but this item has direct relevance to the intersection of blogging and journalism, and therefore direct relevance to what it is we try to do here.
An item from The Blog Herald brought our attention to a piece of legislation introduced this week by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) which seeks "to achieve meaningful reforms to federal government information laws, most notably the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 (FOIA)."
The Cornyn-Leahy legislation is not just pro-openness, pro-accountability, and pro-accessibility - it's also pro-Internet. It includes a hotline enabling citizens to track their requests, including Internet tracking, and grants privileged FOIA fees for bloggers and writers for Internet outlets, providing the same status as traditional media.
Protect access to FOIA fee waivers for legitimate journalists, regardless of institutional association – including bloggers and other Internet-based journalists ...
Those readers who recall that we recently submitted a FOIA request to the FBI regarding the local Joint Terrorism Task Force might recall that in fact we applied for those very fee and fee waiver privileges, although we won't know their response until the beginning of next month.
Nonetheless, regardless of their response on the matter of those fee and waiver privileges, reforming the nation's FOIA laws to explicitly include bloggers is a wise idea, and it's at least vaguely remarkable that it's being proposed so directly. Because this is an important journalistic issue (and by that we mean both the specific inclusion of bloggers and the broader overall aims of the bill), we will try to keep up to date on this issue.
Especially because when it becomes clear just who in Congress needs to hear from supporters of FOIA and openness in government, we fully intend to urge you to make your voices heard on the matter.
In making a determination of a representative of the news media ..., an agency may not deny that status solely on the basis of the absence of institutional associations of the requester, but shall consider the prior publication history of the requester. Prior publication history shall include books, magazine and newspaper articles, newsletters, television and radio broadcasts, and Internet publications. If the requestor has no prior publication history or current affiliation, the agency shall consider the requester's stated intent at the time the request is made to distribute information to a reasonably broad audience.
That appears to be the element (or perhaps one of them, we haven't yet read the bill) which expands the FOIA privileges regarding fee and fee waiver policies for media to bloggers.