Oregon officials continue to struggle with the issue of whether bloggers qualify as part of the “news media” that must be allowed to sit in on otherwise closed meetings held in executive session.
Oregon state law doesn’t provide a clear definition of “news media,” so different jurisdictions have been making their own rules.
A blogger in Lakeside, Oregon is now pushing for access to local executive sessions, according to a news account earlier this year.
Officials say bloggers will be more likely to break the rules by disclosing information from executive sessions that should remain confidential.
Christian Gaston, president of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Oregon chapter, says those fears are overblown.
Gaston says while executive sessions are held for good reasons, few bloggers would intentionally reveal information. If they did, the council’s best weapon would be to bar them from future meetings.
‘In my mind, the law already has an escape clause for someone who doesn’t want to play by the rules,” Gaston said.
Gaston says Oregon allows reporters to attend executive sessions so politicians don’t wander into topics that deserve public discussion. Privately discussing the price of land is fine, but privately discussing the land’s prospective uses is not.
As financially stressed newspapers trim their reporting staffs, bloggers such as Macduff increasingly may fill the watchdog role, Gaston said.
Here in Hawaii, the reporters shield law provides a relatively expansive definition that would provide many bloggers with the same protections as professional reporters employed by mainstream media (although the legislature is under under pressure from the Abercrombie administration to substantially weaken the law). At least for the time being, some local bloggers would likely qualify if the “news media” were allowed to attend executive sessions.