Contact: Mac McKerral, SPJ President, 813-342-2472, firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles N. Davis, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee Co-Chairperson, 573-882-5736, email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis-based Society of Professional Journalists honored the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon by unanimously endorsing a resolution recognizing his visionary work in creating the office of Public Access Counselor, one of the few of its kind in the nation.
SPJ’s 23-member national board of directors unanimously approved the resolution during the society’s national convention Sept. 11-14 in Tampa, Fla.
“The death of Gov. O’Bannon means the loss of a friend for the Society, and it means many challenges for the state of Indiana,” said Mac McKerral, president of the Society of Professional Journalists and editor of The Tampa Bay Business Journal. McKerral also helped found the Greenwood (Ind.) Gazette in 1986.
“But it should not mean challenges for the residents of the state in the area of open government. For the state’s residents, Gov. O’Bannon was an important ally, because he created the Public Access Counselor’s office. The best way for the state to permanently honor Gov. O’Bannon is by making sure his legacy of advocacy for access to government information and records is protected-and increased.”
SPJ’s approved resolution seeks to pursue model legislation for all states to consider in creating a similar public access counselor office.
“Thanks to the efforts of Gov. O’Bannon and countless other access advocates, Indiana is one of a handful of states with a public access counselor,” said Charles Davis, FOI Committee Chair. “I cannot overstate the importance of this position which ensures that the people have a voice in access issues in Indiana.”
Since 1999, the Public Access Counselor’s office has reviewed 7,589 queries filed by the public, media and government officials. Of those, most complaints continue to cite problems with gaining access to public records generated by government.
The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.