Appeals Court rules against school district in FOIA case Guest Column: Into the Issues by Al Cross
Vol. 14 | No. 16 | Thursday, April 18, 2019
Serving Press and State Since 1873
Act 1075 protects newspaper public notices Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law this week one of the newspaper industry’s most critical items of legislation to emerge from the 2019 General Assembly, a bill ensuring newspapers remain the principal source for public notices.
construction trade journals, they may do so.
Act 1075 establishes that Arkansas’s cities, counties and public school districts must use newspaper public notices when soliciting competitive bids for construction projects. The Act, which originated as Senate Bill 409 by Sen. Scott Flippo, R-Mountain Home, as initially drafted would have made newspaper publication an option for such notices along with websites and construction trade journals.
“For transparency and for wide readership, newspapers have been and continue to be the best place to disseminate public notices,” said Ashley Wimberley, executive director of the Arkansas Press Association. “We conveyed that message week after week to the Legislature and to entities that support local governments, and were successful in working toward legislation that actually strengthens current law and enhances transparency in our state.” Before Act 1075, cities, counties and schools could place construction-bid notices in either a newspaper or a trade journal. The new law eliminates a choice between newspapers and trade journals. Instead, the act specifies that “the county, municipality, school district or other local taxing unit shall have first published notice of its intention to receive bids one time each week for not less than two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation published in the county
The compromise final bill eliminates the choice of the three, thus requiring cities, counties and schools to publish bid notices for at least two consecutive weeks in newspapers. If the entities would like to also post the notices on websites or in
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Nominee selected for APA board of directors annual election This is the first of three required publications naming the nominee to fill a vacant position on the Arkansas Press Association Board of Directors.
The nominee is Jennifer Allen, publisher of the Pine Bluff Commercial.
The nominee was chosen in March by the nominating committee and validated by the Board of Directors at its annual spring meeting earlier this month at the APA Headquarters in Little Rock. The nominating committee is comprised of the immediate past president, one sitting APA board member, and two at-large members. Those roles were filled this year by Byron Tate, Tom White, Britt Talent and Patti Sanders.
Allen’s name, along with the names of four other current board members, will appear on the ballot in APA’s annual election to be held in May. The first publication of the nominee opens a Jennifer Allen two-week window for at-large nominations.
A letter of recommendation from three APA newspapers in good standing is required for an at-large nomination. That period will expire on May 2. Designated voter letters will be mailed later this month, and the ballots for the annual APA election will be mailed in mid-May. The newly elected APA board member will assume their respective seat on the board at the conclusion of the annual APA Convention to be held on June 26-29 in Hot Springs.
Act 1075 protects newspaper public notices
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in which the proposed improvements are to be made.” In addition to that publication, the entity may also publish in a trade journal or on one of three websites selected for the purpose of receiving electronic submission of bids. Cities, counties and school districts argued for the original version of SB 409 because they wanted the option to receive construction bids electronically and because they said they could direct vendors to bid notices on websites without having to spend money for newspaper notices. They cited efficiency and economics. Wimberley and Arkansas DemocratGazette President Lynn Hamilton, on the other hand, testified in a Senate committee the original bill that gave authority to publish on any website would greatly limit the public’s right to know. Wimberley and Hamilton explained how newspapers play an essential and important role in notifying the public about how its tax dollars are spent, and how Arkansas still lags other states in broadband Internet access.
“In a democratic society, we can’t trade transparency for efficiency,” Wimberley said. “This bill would have done that if not for a broad coalition of our members expressing their concerns and encouraging the Legislature to find the right resolution to this issue. “While Act 1075 is a much better outcome for our newspapers, we cannot be complacent in coming months. We fully expect legislation in the next General Assembly that would make it easier for public entities to circumvent thorough public notice publication in the name of ‘efficiency.’” To rebut those future efforts, Wimberley said the APA will be convening a committee soon to study the delivery of public notices and how the newspaper industry remains the primary vehicle for such notices. Newspapers must acknowledge it is a time of transition, Wimberley said, but the newspaper industry should be confident in its historical role in public notice publication. The new committee will be charged with identifying ways to handle the transition. For instance, it’s important to continue to
let policymakers know the APA publishes a searchable online database of Arkansas public notices as added value for running notices in newspapers. In addition to strengthening the newspaper public notice requirement, Act 1075 establishes a process for cities, counties and schools to choose a website where they could receive electronic bids. The state Office of Procurement will select three website vendors the entities could choose from. Compliance with the process will be overseen by a Public Works Committee comprised of the state procurement director, APA executive director, executive director of the Association of Arkansas Counties, president of the Arkansas Municipal League and the executive director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators. If entities were to choose an online vendor and accept electronic bids, the entity must first publish in a local newspaper its intent to receive electronic bids and the website it will use to receive the bids. That notice must be published for five weeks.
Window for at-large Arkansas SPJ hosts discussion on nominations to APA media coverage of immigration board now open The two-week window for at-large nominations to the Arkansas Press Association Board of Directors opens today and runs through May 2, as per the APA constitution and bylaws. One APA member has been nominated by the nominating committee process and that candidate name is published in a separate article in this week’s Arkansas Publisher Weekly. APA members wishing to nominate themselves or someone else for an atlarge nomination and to be included on the annual ballot must acquire letters of recommendation from three APA member newspapers in good standing. These letters must be submitted to the APA by the May 2 deadline. The ballots in the annual election will be mailed mid-May. Arkansas Publisher Weekly
The Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will host a panel discussion and documentary screening on Wednesday, April 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the Southwest Community Center, 6401 Baseline Road, in Little Rock.
of legislation to allow DACA participants to receive state nursing licenses; Dianna Young, a local immigration attorney; and Bilal Sohail, graduate student at the University of Central Arkansas.
The discussion moderated by Michel Leidermann of El Latino newspaper will focus immigration and the media, specifically on local media coverage of issues related to immigration and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
Sohail will also show a 25-minute documentary he produced about how DACA has affected college students. A Pakistan native, he attended the New York Film Academy and shot and edited four documentaries while working as an intern for PBS.
Panelists will be Rodrigo Morales Salazar of the protection and legal affairs department of the Mexican Counsel’s office in Little Rock; Rep. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale, sponsor
The free event is designed to give working journalists thoughts to consider about how to improve reporting on information and DACA, and it is open to the public.
April 18, 2019
Appeals Court rules against school district in FOIA case The Arkansas Court of Appeals last week issued a decision affirming a lower court’s ruling that the state’s Freedom of Information Act requires documents to be provided electronically when available and when requested.
which it can be readily converted.
The school district argued the request took up too much time between scanning
The school district was ordered to provide the records to Delany for free The appeals court in a decision by Judge Larry Vaught said nothing in the law allows a records custodian to choose a medium for providing records “based on the number of records it must redact or based on its preference to have a hard copy of documents produced … “
According to the Arkansas DemocratGazette, the appeals court decision marked the second time the Pulaski County School District was found to have violated FOIA related to a request by Stephen Nicholas Delany. Delany had requested 1,816 pages of documents to be provided electronically. Instead, the school district argued that it was easier to turn over paper copies and the district attempted to charge the requestor $272. The lower court and the appeals court cited the language of FOIA in Arkansas Code An. 25-19-105, which states that public records may be requested in a readily available format or a format to
paper records into an electronic format and subsequently making redactions. The appeals court affirmed Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chip Welch, who said, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, that the district must scan the documents and provide them electronically because the district was
The newspaper reported that a decision on attorneys fees is still pending in circuit court, as is a petition by Delany’s attorney, Matt Campbell of Little Rock, to hold the school district in contempt for not immediately turning over records after Welch had ordered it to do so. The full appeals court decision may be viewed at: https://opinions.arcourts.gov/ ark/courtofappeals/en/item/367308/index. do
2019 Pulitzer Prize winners announced this week Winners of Pulitzer prizes for 2019 were announced earlier this week. The Pulitzer is considered journalism’s highest honor. Here are the winners in each category and the work for which the winners were awarded:
business empire riddled with tax dodges.”
Public service: South Florida Sun Sentinel, coverage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings.
National reporting: The Wall Street Journal staff for reporting on the payoffs of two women alleged to have had affairs with President Trump, which triggered criminal inquiries.
Breaking news reporting: Pittsburgh PostGazette staff, “immersive, compassionate coverage” of the shootings at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Investigative reporting: The Los Angeles Times’s Matt Hamilton, Harriet Ryan and Paul Pringle for reporting on accusations that a University of Southern California gynecologist had abused hundreds of young women. Explanatory reporting: The New York Times’s David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner for an 18-month investigation into the finances of President Donald Trump. The citation noted the investigation “debunked his claims of self-made wealth and revealed a Arkansas Publisher Weekly
Local reporting: The Advocate staff in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for coverage of a Jim Crow-era law by which Louisiana juries could sentence defendants without unanimous verdicts.
International reporting: Associated Press’s Maggie Michael, Maad al-Zikry and Nariman El-Mofty for a yearlong series on the atrocities of the war in Yemen; and the staff of Reuters, with contributions from Wa Lone and Kywa Soc Oo for coverage of the banishment and murder of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Feature writing: ProPublica’s Hannah Dreier for coverage of Salvadoran immigrants on Long Island in New York “whose lives were shattered by a botched federal crackdown on the international criminal gang, MS-13.” Commentary:
Dispatch’s Tony Messenger for commentary about Missouri’s system of requiring poor, rural Missourians charged with misdemeanors to pay unaffordable fines or face jail time.
Criticism: The Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada for essays that “joined warm emotion and careful analysis” about books on government and the American experience. Editorial writing: The New York Times’s Brent Staples for editorials on racism that were written with “extraordinary moral clarity.” Editorial cartooning: Freelancer Darrin Bell for cartoons that focused on disenfranchised communities and on the Trump administration. Breaking news photography: The Reuters photography staff for photography of migrants traveling to the United States from Central and South America. Feature photography: The Washington Post’s Lorenzo Tugnoli for photographic storytelling of the famine in Yemen. April 18, 2019
Need an updated APA press card? New or updated press cards are available by emailing Bridget Clay at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please have a newspaper owner, publisher or editor make contact confirming employment and the news role for the person requesting the card.
Industry Quote of the Week
Free Arkansas FOI handbooks available from APA office The Arkansas Freedom of Information Handbook, published in October 2017, is available at no charge from APA. This 18th edition is cosponsored by the Arkansas Governor’s Office, Arkansas Attorney a s a n s aArk General’s Office, Arkansas s ans as ahnes A r k The k r T A h e of Press Association, The Society f A rk a n s a s o e f Tm o edo m Fre Th o m d e o e r of Professional Journalists, F d F n r e e ed n atio nom of atiorm Info Fre r m aftoior m Arkansas Broadcasters In In k fo o r m o f k n d b o o k ation In ao Association, Associated Press bo dHbaon d H Handboo n a Managing Editors and Associated H k Arkansas Press Broadcasters Association. nsas Arkansas Arka 017
The handbook includes the complete text of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, a list of resources on FOI, frequently asked questions, exceptions to the act and related federal acts. Instructions on how to challenge a meeting that is about to be closed can be found on the back cover.
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For a free copy, email Ashley Wimberley at email@example.com or call the APA office at 501-374-1500.
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“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.”
- Gore Vidal
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Mark Your Calendar 2019 APA Convention June 26-29, Hotel Hot Springs
April 18, 2019
Guest Column: Into the Issues By Al Cross
That was a tough but mostly accurate headline The Associated Press put on the 2,344-word story it published at the start of Sunshine Week last month: “Decline in readers, ads leads hundreds of newspapers to fold.” But as usual, the headline didn’t tell the whole story. The story had a strong central basis, the research of Penny Abernathy and her colleagues at the University of North Carolina. She reported in October that about 1,400 U.S. cities and towns lost newspapers from 2004 through 2015. Most of those were suburban weeklies, but Abernathy counted more than 500 closures or mergers among rural newspapers. Many of those have been in towns that don’t dominate their counties, especially in areas like the Great Plains that have been losing population. Just over 1,800 papers were shuttered in those 15 years, and more than 1,700 of them were weeklies. But the object example of the AP’s story was a daily, in south-central Missouri’s Pulaski County, which closed in September. The example may seem inapt, but is forward-looking, I wrote on The Rural Blog. That’s because the Waynesville Daily Guide was closed by GateHouse Media, one of the private-equity firms that have bought hundreds of American newspapers and have a bottom-line focus. GateHouse is now the nation’s largest newspaper owner, and it seems willing to close money-making papers because they’re not making enough money. “GateHouse rejects the notion that their motivations are strictly financial,” AP’s David Bauder and David A. Lieb wrote. Near the top of the story, they wrote of the closures, “Blame revenue siphoned by online competition, cost-cutting ownership, a death spiral in quality, sheer disinterest among readers, or reasons peculiar to given locales.” My fear is that the Waynesville Daily Guide is the canary in the newspaper coal mine – a harbinger of more deaths to come. And I know some weekly newspaper editors and publishers who feel the same way. At least two Kentucky weeklies took the unusual step of running the Waynesville story, as a warning to their readers. Arkansas Publisher Weekly
One was Ryan Craig of the Todd County Standard, judged the state’s best small weekly in 12 of the last 13 years. “I ran it in hopes that the Standard’s readers could understand that the issue with newspapers isn’t just an issue with dailies,” he told me. “I firmly feel that small, rural weeklies were safe from the bloodletting larger papers were going through even up to a couple years ago, but the digital age and smartphones, along with the erosion of public notice advertising are really hurting the bottom line and we, as citizens, run the risk of gigantic swaths of rural readers with no local newspaper serving them.” My friend Ryan says he sees fewer and fewer people “who appreciate the role a good rural paper plays as the watchdog and advocate for a small place that is often forgotten by larger places or in the state capital.” I have similar concerns. Here’s what I wrote in a companion piece on The Rural Blog, at https://bit.ly/2Tng4vA, the day we excerpted the Waynesville story: “For a decade now, I have said community journalism is the healthiest part of the traditional news business, primarily because most people will always be interested in news about their locality, and digital media have not invaded the local-news franchise of most rural newspapers. “But now I wonder. Americans increasingly engage in online, virtual communities, many of which have little or nothing to do with a locality (West Highland White Terrier owners like me and my wife, for example). The flood-the-zone approach of President Trump and the dominance of social media have placed more emphasis on national news, and the shriveling of many local news outlets has only exacerbated that. “There is less interest in local news, and certainly in local newspapers, most of which still emphasize the print product that provides most of their advertising revenue. That leaves them with a disproportionately older audience that is gradually dying off. And I can see a decline in many rural newspapers that I did not see five years ago.” The headline on that opinion piece was: As digital challenge increases for journalism, 5
paymasters must adapt, be reliable and relevant, and be true to values – meaning the values of journalism, not just the news business. They are not the same thing. One pays for the other. Our Rural Blog headline on the news piece, available at https://bit.ly/2URGCGI, was: AP uses paper GateHouse closed as example of troubles of local journalism, but says ‘This isn’t a hopeless story’. The AP story included a brief mention of The Pilot in Southern Pines, N.C., which thrives on “revenue raised by side businesses — lifestyle magazines, electronic newsletters, telephone directories, a video production company and a bookstore.” We added that The Pilot’s publisher is David Woronoff, who is going into the North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame this month. The selection committee “felt he set a new standard for community newspapers and earned well-deserved national recognition for excellence,” member Merrill Rose told The Pilot. The committee is right when it comes to journalism, and they are right when it comes to the news business. In his roundtable session on “The Entrepreneurial Spirit” at last year’s NNA convention, David talked about his paper’s new products, including The Sway. Named for the movement of southern pines in the wind. It’s an email newsletter and website for people in their 20s, written by one. “We kind of hide our newspaper lineage with The Sway,” he said, adding that most of its readers “probably don’t know we publish it.” But the revenue from these and other products support The Pilot, helping make it a leader among community newspapers. No, they are not a hopeless story. But they must adapt. Al Cross edited and managed rural newspapers before covering politics for the Louisville Courier Journal and serving as president of the Society of Professional Journalists. He is a journalism professor at the University of Kentucky and director of its Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog at http://irjci.blogspot.com.
April 18, 2019
The Arkansas Publisher Weekly is the only direct source for late-breaking news regarding Arkansas' newspapers and related industries. Publis...
Published on Apr 18, 2019
The Arkansas Publisher Weekly is the only direct source for late-breaking news regarding Arkansas' newspapers and related industries. Publis...