The First Amendment isn’t long, but it certainly packs a lot of angst into those few words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Sunshine Week will be observed across the nation next week. In Iowa, the sunshine next week will be obscured by clouds — at least when it comes to citizen access to videos recorded by law officers on their squad car cameras and body cameras during incidents in which police shoot someone or when officers are fired upon.
On the morning of Aug. 31, shortly after 8:30, a 12-year-old boy pulled out a gun in his seventh-grade classroom in Eldridge, a community just north of Davenport. In an instant, he directed his classmates to get on the floor and then pointed the gun at his teacher’s face and squeezed the trigger. Blessedly, he did not take the gun’s safety off. The gun did not fire.
IowaWatch co-founder Stephen J. Berry called for rebuilding trust in the news media with better media literacy among Americans but also on journalists to adhere to strong ethics during remarks at the 2018 Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government Banquet in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 27, 2018. We’ve published his remarks here.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Stephen J. Berry, whose push for journalists to work thoroughly and ethically led him to co-found the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch, will be the annual Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government Banquet’s guest speaker in Des Moines on Thursday, September 27, 2018.
My role as executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council has taken me from border to border in our state. The message I’ve preached at each stop is a simple one: Transparency is a fundamental part of good government, and government officials risk undermining their respect and credibility when they try to minimize their accountability to the citizens. Two recent events in Iowa illustrate the soundness of my sermon. Those events show that transparency often turns out to be elusive — especially when officials worry about being embarrassed or about the potential fallout from an informed public. Randy Evans
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.
The fifth annual Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government Banquet, titled “Government Transparency: Now More Than Ever,” will feature White House correspondent Jennifer Jacobs as its guest speaker on Thursday, Oct. 5, in Des Moines. The banquet, at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown and hosted by the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism — IowaWatch with the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and Iowa Newspaper Foundation, will follow a day of raising awareness about the importance of an open government and an unrestricted press to our democracy. The banquet will begin with a 5:30 p.m. reception, with serving beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Other events will include a public forum hosted by the Des Moines Register and Iowa Freedom of Information Council, titled, “Iowa’s Creeping Secrecy.” The forum will examine how each year brings more challenges that would erode Iowa’s long tradition of state and local government being open for scrutiny by the public. Speakers will explore this expanding secrecy – and arguments marshaled by various sides.
Jennifer Jacobs, whose journey to White House correspondent began in Iowa, will bring back home tales of covering the Trump presidency when she serves as the annual Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government Banquet’s guest speaker in Des Moines on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017.