Supporters of open government in Vermont can attend a half-day workshop May 28 in Montpelier.|
The "Access Across America" workshop is designed to try to help Vermonters obtain access to public records and meetings.
The session is open to anyone interested - journalists, public watchdogs, and other supporters of Vermont's right-to-know laws.
The workshop is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Capitol Plaza on State Street. The $20 cost includes lunch and all handouts.
Advance registration is required by 5 p.m. Friday, May 21; call the Vermont Press Association at St. Michael's College at 802-654-2442 or e-mail email@example.com.
Among topics at the workshop will be strategies for effective records requests; overcoming denials and lowering fees; getting what you need without going to court; and ideas for document-based stories for journalists, both on deadline or for long-term projects.
Leading the workshop will be David Cuillier, chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee for the Society of Professional Journalists. He was a reporter and editor for 12 years and now teaches at the University of Arizona School of Journalism. Cuillier and Charles Davis co-authored the book "The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records."
The conference will open with a talk about open government by Doug Clifton of Middlebury, director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. Clifton is the retired editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and former executive editor of the Miami Herald. Under his leadership, the Herald won three Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, for commentary, and for investigative reporting.
"Access Across America," sponsored in part by the Society of Professional Journalists, is making a 35-state tour in 45 days this summer. The Montpelier stop, only one of two in New England, is being coordinated by the Vermont Coalition for Open Government and the Vermont Press Association.
Press association President Bethany Dunbar said the workshop is important to all Vermonters because the state has some of the weakest open government laws in the nation and receives low scores in national surveys of the 50 states. Dunbar, editor of the Chronicle in Barton, noted that it is up to individuals, the media or other organizations to force or sue for enforcement of open government requirements, including access to public records and open meetings.
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