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The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bloggers not considered legitimate journalists by Coast Guard

Interesting debate on whether FOIA standard fee waivers for journalists should apply to bloggers.
This spring, the Coast Guard allegedly faked a key test of its flagship National Security Cutter, according to sources close to the program. The maritime service denies this. But six months later, the Coast Guard essentially has rejected two blogs' Freedom of Information Act requests for documentation related to the test. (The Coast Guard asked for $18,000 in fees to honor the request, and denied applications for the standard fee waiver for journalists.)

On Monday, Coastie Commandant Thad Allen explained why: The service doesn't necessarily consider blogs legitimate media, and so didn't feel they were owed the same considerations under FOIA. Allen made these points during a Pentagon-sponsored conference call with bloggers, to announce a new "social media engagement" strategy.
More here.

3 comments:

LCDR Tony Russell said...

FOIA and Alternative Media – Correcting Mischaracterizations

The Coast Guard is committed to organizational transparency and compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552. Any entity or person may have access to government documents under FOIA unless the documents are exempted from release. The Coast Guard is guided by the Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act Guide (http://www.usdoj.gov/oip/04_3.html), the Coast Guard Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts Manual, COMDTINST M5260.3.l (http://www.uscg.mil/directives/cim/5000-5999/cim_5260_3.pdf), and legal precedent. COMDTINST M5260.3 sets policy and procedures for responding to FOIA requests. For the most part, requestors pay for the cost of producing material in response to a FOIA request and the Coast Guard FOIA manual guides Coast Guard personnel in categorizing requestors and then calculating applicable fees for searching, reviewing, and duplicating responsive FOIA materials based on the requestor’s category.

If a requester is categorized as “representative of the news media” then only duplication fees after the first 100 pages are assessed. Whether alternative media (i.e. bloggers) are eligible for categorization as “representative of the news media” is an evolving legal issue based on the extent to which the alternative media has infused its content with sufficient journalistic rigor and whether it is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. Simply put, not all online content constitutes journalism that warrants the cost of FOIA production to be borne by the American taxpayer. This is not a value judgment on the content of a blog or other online site, it is simply the application of federal law and guidelines in determining whether an activity is journalism, the Coast Guard may consider a requestor’s past work as compared to accepted professional standards of journalism, including, but not limited to:

American Society of News Editors
http://www.asne.org/index.cfm?ID=888
Society of Professional Journalists
http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp
Associated Press
http://www.ap.org/newsvalues/index.html

The Coast Guard’s intent is to achieve openness of its records by applying U.S. government guidelines consistently in a way that does not burden the U. S. taxpayer with underwriting the FOIA requests of individuals or groups that are not eligible for a lower fee level.

LCDR Tony Russell,
Press Secretary to the Commandant
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Thomas Jackson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas Jackson said...

FOI Advocate?

You removed my comment, but left Tony's. Did you follow the links he provided as reason for asking both investigative blogs following the Coast Guard for 18K?

The links have zero to do with the topic. Fluff.