WORDman Note: Apologies if this is too parochial, but Utah lawmakers’ passage of a law rolling back government transparency leads the nation today as the Society of Professional Journalists come to Salt Lake City to award Gov. Gary Herbert SPJ’s national “Black Hole award.” So proud.—TP
A Black Hole for Gov. Herbert
“The new version [of Utah’s open-records law], set to go into effect July 1, allows government agencies to presume that records should be closed unless a citizen can show, ‘by a preponderance of the evidence,’ that they should be open instead.
That places a great burden on the public, and goes far beyond any reasonable need to keep any individual’s private medical or financial data on a need-to-know basis.
A law that protects government secrecy is being sold on claims that it protects personal privacy. The people of Utah should make it clear they resent the fact that they are not only the excuse for such subterfuge, but also the victims.”
—Editorial, The Salt Lake Tribune, March 15, 2011
• Editorial Comment: I have a secret urge to review government records.
Image: (PAUL FRAUGHTON | The Salt Lake Tribune) With religious, community, business and government leaders behind him, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Tuesday signed into law immigration bills passed in this year's legislative session, including a controversial guest-worker program (HB116) and an enforcement bill (HB497).
• 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
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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 email@example.com for details. Review begins in March. Start date: August 2011.