APME to Launch ‘First Amendment Project,’ Focusing on FOI Issues

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(AP) Newspaper readers and government officials will be invited to talk with journalists about the importance of access to public records under a project announced Wednesday by the Associated Press Managing Editors Association.

The APME First Amendment Project will encourage newspapers to improve local coverage of freedom-of-information issues and to engage in conversations with readers, public officials, and community leaders about those issues through roundtable discussions.

The project also will help newspapers communicate with their communities through other means such as online, interactive reader panels.

“We want to make readers part of the conversation about freedom of information,” said APME President Deanna Sands, managing editor of the Omaha World- Herald.

In the pilot phase of the project, APME has formed partnerships with newspapers in four cities to do freedom of information projects.

The newspapers are the Dayton Daily News; the News Journal of Wilmington, Del.; the Times Union of Albany, N.Y.; and The Arizona Republic of Phoenix and the Arizona Daily Star of Tucson, Ariz., which are joining on a combined project.

A trainer will work with each newspaper to develop a stronger understanding of freedom-of-information issues while helping journalists better understand concerns by public figures and ordinary people about issues like privacy.

The community discussions will build on the success of APME’s National Credibility Roundtables Project, which has worked with more than 160 news organizations around the country to discuss matters of credibility with citizens.

Participating newspapers can select their own topics, such as the unavailability of records locally or limitations by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act on information that previously was available to the public and the news media.

The First Amendment projects are to be completed by September. Results will be presented during the APME annual conference Oct. 26-29 in San Jose, Calif.

The project is financed by a $40,000 grant from the Associated Press Managing Editors Association Foundation Inc., a charitable organization related to the APME association. Financing is through support contributed by individuals and newspaper companies honoring Louis Boccardi upon his retirement as president and chief executive officer of the Associated Press in 2003.

APME is an association of editors at AP’s more than 1,500 newspapers in the United States and publications affiliated with the Canadian Press in Canada.

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