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SPJ & MuckRock launch #AccessDenied Project to gather journalists’ PIO access issues



Dec. 9, 2015

Lynn Walsh, SPJ President-Elect, 614-859-6194, lynn.k.walsh@gmail.com
Michael Morisy, MuckRock Founder, 857-488-3081, michael@muckrock.com
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS—The Society of Professional Journalists and MuckRock today launched the #AccessDenied Project, which gathers journalists’ access issues when working with Public Information Officers.

Since at least 2009, journalist organizations, including SPJ, have been pushing back on the lack of access to government employees and information.

In recent years journalists have seen an increasing number of stall tactics being used and a lack of access to government employees and information.

These include agencies forcing reporters to go through Public Information Officers (PIOs) to speak to any employee, which often silences staff on critical matters. Then, once a PIO is contacted, there are sometimes other obstructions or monitoring that takes place. These can include, PIOs sitting in on interviews, asking to review questions or denying direct access to an employee.

These are just some of the reasons SPJ and MuckRock are partnering to launch this project.

“We believe a journalist’s access to direct information from government employees is important,” said Lynn Walsh, SPJ President-elect. “Lack of access, delayed access and even blocked access by a government public relations professional, communication personnel or public information officer, prevents, delays and can impede a journalist's job: to accurately, fairly and ethically inform the public.”

MuckRock Founder Michael Morisy agrees that giving journalists access to government officials is key to informed democracy. “The increasing trend of pushing off hard questions or even basic queries to press offices and canned statements may make public officials' lives easier in the short term, but it robs them of the chance of truly engaging with their constituents and undermines public accountability and trust," he said.

Has this happened to you? If so, SPJ and MuckRock want to hear about it. With #AccessDenied, the two organizations are hoping to gather and share information about how journalists are experiencing this pushback.

Journalists can submit their stories by clicking here.

Stories can also be shared on Twitter using the following hashtag: #AccessDenied or by Tweeting to @SPJ_Tweets and @MuckRock.

SPJ and MuckRock encourage journalists to submit the information and allow it to be shared publicly so other journalists can see what others are experiencing firsthand. It will also allow SPJ and MuckRock to share the information on social media and with government agencies.

The form also allows for anonymous submissions and the choice to keep submissions private. That information will be kept in the database and used in general terms or a broad analysis.

Click here to read more about SPJ and other journalism organizations’ push over the years to end these practices or view the timeline here.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit spj.org.

Founded in 2010, MuckRock is the easiest way for journalists, researchers, and the public to file, track, and share public records requests. It has helped its users file over 19,000 requests in every state and with every federal agency, and has helped release over 750,000 pages of government records into the public domain, all available at MuckRock.com.


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