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tv   The Art of Access  CSPAN  June 25, 2017 1:00pm-1:16pm EDT

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.... .... >> machine platform crowd. look for the titles in the coming week and the authors in the future on booktv and c-span. profess professor david cuillier, what is the information of freedom act? >> it came about in 1966 with a little pressure from the presidential office.
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congress felt there needs to be more transparency and openness along with the news media and others that came along and felt more transparency was needed. they passed it. it guarantees everyone's right, every citizen's right, to see what its government is up to. >> was it being pushed by the media at this point? >> i think that is fair to say. i think the journalists were a little upset about cold war secrecy which had gotten pretty bad. it was bad during world war ii and everybody understood the secrecy there but once the war ended the secrecy continued and got worse. it would not have happened without a california congressman john moss. he championed it and it took 10-15 years before it could get passed. but it eventually did.
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>> what does it say? >> the freedom of information act requires federal agencies provide records if you want to see them. there are exemptions and good reasons because of national security, oil wealth, the location of oil, that was all added. remember, they needed to get support of texans, lyndon johnson, to get it passed. for the most part, you are entitled to see what our government is up to. there have been millions of records revealed that have helped us get a sense of what was going on. >> why would oil well locations be secret? >> well, that is a really good question. i suppose if you are an oil company, you like to make sure nobody else knows where you are drilling so i imagine to the benefit of the companies.
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>> the name of your book is called"the art of access: strategies for acquiring public records" if it is a law why is it art and why do we need strategy? >> that is a really good question. we shouldn't need strategies but we do. you can have access to federal records but every state has a public record law that requires you to state and local records like town hall and school district. a lot of agencies don't provide the information when they are supposed to by law. research i have done shows for example, on average, three quarters of the time if you ask for a crime log from your local police department they will deny you that information. three quarters of the time the police break the law. this is persuasive throughout the country. so, because the law is weak. it has no enforcement provisions or very little teeth. so it is stacked against the citizen.
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your only recourse is to hire an attorney or take them to court. who has the time to do that? i wrote a book with my colleague from the university of georgia to help people maneuver through system. it takes tenacity, a little gumption and psychological human tactics. >> have you pursued a foya? >> absolutely. where was a journalist -- i -- for a long time covered city hall and legislatures and had to follow lots of requests. >> walk us through one that you filled? >> when i was working in boise, idaho i requested the claims against the city. i got a whole box of them,
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interviewed them, analyzed them and figure areaed out what problems the city was having. they are essential and required for so much reporting. and not just journalists but average people. >> have you requested for a foya through the federal government? >> the federal government is hard to deal with it. it is a huge bureaucracies and the delays are long. yeah, i have requested foya requests and it is a pain. frankly in my research most journalists have not or if they did it once that is thealist time because they find it is a waste of time.
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>> what is the strategy to get around that? >> for journalists it is about social and getting to know the people. you have a delay and it is over. that doesn't mean the system is totally broken. only 7% of foya requests are submitted by ournalists. 93% are submitted by businesses, citizens, universities, lawyers and you name it. there is a lot of information for this to work. they don't always need the timeliness journalists do. >> has there been any effort to put what you call teeth into the enforcement?
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>> there has been a lot of talk put people are reluctant to do so and that is too bad because in other nations nay have stronger regulations. out of 111 countries with foy all allafoyfoya laws we rank toward the end. the number one country in the world, the law that is best for the citizens any guesses? mexico. mexico has the best foya law in the world. it works. they have teeth in the law, enforcement provisions, and it works for people. >> what is the reluctance on the part of government officials to release information to citizens? >> information is power. when you have power you want to keep it so people in power
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really don't want strong public laws. it takes a lot to get the laws strengthened. it takes a watergate and something significant where people rise up and demand accountability on their government. there seems to be a little more anxiety in our country right now so we are moving in that direction. >> if information isn't online provided by the federal government, what kind of information is not public necessarily without a foya? >> the information we see online is the tip of the iceberg. a lot of agencies do great work, try to be transparent, provide
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information proactively. but some is some information they don't put online. if you were a manager in charge of an agency and there was information that could make you look back, get you fired, maybe get you thrown in jail, would you put it online? no. would you voluntarily release it to a journalist or someone else? no, you would do what you could to hide that. and that is the information these laws are intended to force disclosure for. ultimately who is in charge? we are in charge. the people are in charge and these laws help protect that. >> you are director of the school of journalism here at the university of arizona. do you make your students file foya? >> i do. i require it in all classrooms and i have great exercises that empower them.
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i wish every person in america was required to file a public record request in high school. this should be part of civics. unless we help teach our children how to engage with our government we are in a bad shape as a country. and i hate to say it, but in mexico they require every student in k-12 school and universities to file public record requests. that is how you get people to know how to work with your government and figure out what is happening. >> where do you even start? >> that is a big question. i asked 300 experts last month and came without a report this week and a lot of things we can do. there are a lot of solutions. we can integrate this into our public and public record
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workers. there are little tweaks week make that make a lot of good. we just need a concerted effort. we need coordination. we need public support. if the people don't believe in this, legislatures are not going to believe in it. >> current political climate. is foya a big deal? >> it is huge. there is a little impetus to push for stronger foia laws. when you have opposing powers, then you have movement. we have a republican president and republican congress. foia we have to look and see who
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is in power and who is opposing that power and that is when we see change. i think we will see a lot of change over the next four years. we have already seen quite strange >> legal denials. what is the recourse? >> other than hiring an attorney and suing you have to take other channels if you are just an average citizen without a lawyer team behind you. in our book, "the art of access," we talk about all the tactics that a lot of journalists employ. going above, shaming a public agency for breaking the law, we
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talk about how you can ask for records just to see records, not get copies. that is for the electronic versions of it so you don't have to pay for copies that are exorbrant and the fees. you talk about how you can get help. there are organizations that help access the records and even sue. i do a training lesson on how to sue for the records. it is not rocket science. we are not talking about an area of the law that can't be figured out but people do need a little education and help with it. there are resources it for it. >> and here is david cuillier's book, "the art of access: strategies for acquiring public records." this is booktv on c-span2. >> you are watching booktv on c-span2 with top non-fiction
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book and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> gene, what are the big titles you have coming out this fall? >> we have sharks of the shallow coming out after shark week which is a huge thing were it the general public. it is sort of an unofficial series we are doing. oversized, heavily illustrated, reasonbly price. so we are excited about that. we have a book that is like the remnants minus the bear. the story of the frontier and fur trapping and three guys who played at the radio house. and then we have a book about a
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gentlemen who was the first graduate of harvard college. so a biograpy for us which is unusual. >> can you give us background? >> we are the oldest press in the u.s. established in 1848. we are books, news, digital publishing and a book service. >> talking from the 2017 book expo in new york city. and the publicity manager at john hopkins university press. thank you very much. >> thank you. [inaudible conversations]

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