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Friday, April 08, 2011

Journalists down in the dumps about FOI document dumps

More grumbles from journalists in Tom Cowie's Crikey piece about Friday (and other day) FOI document dumps by agencies in Canberra (Treasury the worst) that some see designed to reduce their enthusiasm and interest in making applications by giving others the chance to run off with the story before the FOI applicant can make something of what has been released. I'm not aware of journalist complaints about the similar Disclosure Log system in NSW, in place since July, where there is some sort of solace perhaps as no charges apply if information sought by an applicant under the GIPA act (s 66) is made publicly available before or within three days of being released to the applicant. Journalists fancy the Queensland formula: the Right to Information Act s 78 provides nothing about a document (including a copy of the document) released may be put on a disclosure log until at least 24 hours after the applicant accesses the document- extended to three days.

The comments on the Crikey website suggest some readers need convincing we should feel sorry for journalists, although some practices aimed at deliberate dudding seem unethical to me. There were a few wry smiles in Canberra at the National Information Law conference recently when Michael McKinnon of the 7 Network said journalist FOI applicants needed time to consider documents released without time pressures to use the material immediately on the day it is made available so as to ensure quality journalism, and he makes a similar observation in response to the comments on Crikey.  We'd like to think some newsrooms consistently choose quality over the race to be first, but that might be just wishful.

(Update- more scepticism about journalists woes.)

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