Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Some big media firms push investigations and legal action, but smaller outlets are demurring

Some large media companies have ratcheted up their investigative reporting and open records request despite plummeting newspaper revenue, Tim Arango of The New York Times reports. But while companies like Hearst Newspapers and The Associated Press continue to file dozens of open-records requests and appeal denials, smaller newspapers may be abandoning some investigative reporting as their budgets shrink.

"Many regional newspapers are choosing not to spend money on lawyers or are asking them to work pro bono," Arango writes. "The efforts of Hearst and the AP contrast with the state of affairs at a smaller level, where regional and local papers have largely shied away from aggressive litigation — and, in many cases, aggressive investigative reporting."

The University of Missouri's Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, added, "I’ve got to say, there’s a heck of a gap between the Hearsts of the world and all these community newspapers scattered across the country." Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told Arango a group of media lawyers at a recent meeting in Florida told her access litigation was really struggling as newspapers more frequently ask for pro-bono work: "Newspapers say, when push comes to shove, we’ll get lawyers to do it for free." (Read more)

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