The head of the Ohio Newspaper Association has called a new state bill proposing to block reporters’ access to the names of handgun permit-holders “bad precedent.” It’s easy to see why: the public has been barred from access since Ohio’s concealed-carry law was passed seven years ago, and since 2007, reporters have only been allowed to view the lists (without taking notes).
House Bill 328 would force reporters to obtain a court order to see the lists. Ohio journalists had used these records to cross-reference the names of alleged criminals in gun crimes against lists of permit holders.
“Judges shouldn’t be editors,” writes ONA Executive Director Dennis Hetzel in an association bulletin. “And reporters shouldn’t have to go to court to get permission to do their jobs.” The association represents more than 400 Ohio print and online news publications.
The Columbus Dispatch’s Randy Ludlow offers an excellent overview of the proposal, including the supposed logic of the forces behind it. Needless to say, such bills have a way of crossing state lines, and it could soon be coming to a legislature near you.
On a related note: interesting new scholarship is shedding light on the problems of government open-records training procedures.
USA Today, The Seattle Times and The Chicago Tribune have been named winners of the 2009 Philip Meyer Journalism Award for investigative reporting using social science research methods.
USA Today took first place with “The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools.” The Seattle Times project investigated Washington hostpitals and the drug resistent germ MRSA, while the Tribune team looked into new dangers facint elderly patients in Illinois nursing homes.
An honorable mention went to the Arizona Republic, whose reporters used social network analysis tools to examine a system in which 22 charities and dozens of affiliates moved millions of dollars among themselves while often performing little charitable work.