Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Black Hole

No Utah Sunshine

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s restrictive new open records law has brought the state national recognition for reducing public access to government.

The national Society of Professional Journalists plans to present Gov. Gary Herbert with a first-ever Black Hole award Wednesday to highlight the law, which increases fees for records requests and makes text messages private.

David Cuillier, SPJ’s national Freedom of Information Committee chief and a journalism professor at the University of Arizona, said he’ll try to present the award to Herbert on Wednesday. ...

“The cards are stacked against citizens so badly that almost everything can be kept private,” Cuillier said. “They can say no to every request, and there's nothing that can be done.”

—The Associated Press, Monday, March 14, 2011

(SARAH A. MILLER | The Salt Lake Tribune) Protesters congregate inside the Utah State Capitol Rotunda Thursday night after rallying outside to condemn passage of HB477, adding new restrictions on public access to government records.

Background: HB477, which sharply restricts Utah’s open-records law, passed the House with 42 votes. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declined to veto it, saying his veto would have been over-ridden; he has called a special session in June to revise the bill. But the national Society of Professional Journalists condemned Herbert’s action as dishonest and said it “effectively ends Utah’s long history of government transparency.” Utah SPJ President Tom Haraldsen said: “I am disappointed, both as a journalist but first and foremost as a citizen of Utah, in the actions of our lawmakers and governor. The intent of this bill — and the process by which it was rapidly introduced and passed in just two days near the end of the legislative session — negated any opportunity for the public to truly weigh in and have its say about this law.” —Salt Lake Tribune story, March 10, 2011

Salt Lake Tribune Editorial: “Herbert sells out: Gov. Gary Herbert has sold his political soul, and sold out his constituents, by signing a dreadful bill that will eviscerate the state’s prime open government law.” —The Salt Lake Tribune in a rare page-one editorial, March 11, 2011

• Editorial Comment: Our tax dollars at work.

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• Agricultural Communication/Journalism Faculty Wanted! The joint program in Agricultural Communication & Journalism at Utah State University seeks candidates for a full-time, tenure-track assistant professor. See the posting at USU’s HR site here or email ted.pease@usu.edu for details. Review begins in March. Start date: August 2011.


  1. On Mar 15, 2011, at 10:31 AM, John McManus wrote:


    It appears that journalism is in retreat and the barbarians in the House and statehouse are pressing for a repeal of the mechanisms of accountability and restraint on top-down exercise of power in both the public and private sectors.

    We need a civic revival.


  2. As people pay (apparently) less attention to news and public affairs beyond their own parochial interests, they don't seem to understand that 2/3 of GRAMA requests in Utah last year were from them, not journalists. Esp. here, authority has not just privileges but complete acquiecence—people in power (except for Democrats) know more than we do so we shouldn't question them....