KSU professor champions press freedom

Carolyn Carlson

Contact: Yolanda Rodriguez, yolanda@kennesaw.edu, 770-499-3057

National Press Club address a first

KENNESAW, Ga. (July 25, 2013) –Kennesaw State University Assistant Professor of Communication Carolyn S. Carlson will be in Washington, D.C., next month to speak about the practices of federal public affairs officers and the implications for press freedoms.

Carlson, a longtime reporter and editor for The Associated Press, will discuss two recent surveys that explore the relationship between government affairs officers and reporters during a panel discussion assembled by the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Committee. It will be the first time a Kennesaw State professor speaks at a press club event.

In a 2012 online survey, 146 reporters covering federal government agencies said they faced barriers in trying to get information to the public because of interference from public affairs officers. A 2013 follow-up survey of more than 100 government public information officers found that about 65 percent said they felt it necessary to supervise interviews of their agency’s staff. The Freedom of Information Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) conducted the surveys as part of Sunshine Week.

Carlson was the lead author of the surveys’ findings. Roberta Jackson, a graduate research assistant at Kennesaw State, worked on the 2013 report.

“We are trying to get their attention [public information officers] to let them know that too much control is too much,” said Carlson, who has been a national president of the Society of Professional Journalists. She is also a former chair of the society’s Ethics Committee and is currently a member of its Freedom of Information Committee.

“Public information officers want to control who is talking to the media and what they can say. This is system-wide — on a national, state and local level. This is has come about in the last 20 years or so,” she said.

“Reporters see this as a form of government censorship,” Carlson said. “Reporters want to be able to go to their sources within the government. They want to use PIOs to find the sources they don’t know. They don’t want to just be hearing the company line. This is not to say that all the news about an agency should be bad news. But it shouldn’t all be good news.

“What reporters really resent is when PIOs monitor their interviews, which more and more PIOs are doing. Newer reporters believe that this is the way it has always been. Older reporters are more likely to go around the PIOs to get the information they need.”

To explore the issue, the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Committee has assembled a panel of experts with differing views on the subject.

John M. Donnelly, chairman of the committee and a senior writer with CQ Roll Call, will moderate the on Aug. 12 panel. In addition to Carlson, the other members of the panel are:

·  Linda Petersen - managing editor, The Valley Journals of Salt Lake; freedom of information chair for the Society of Professional Journalists; and president of the Utah Foundation for Open Government

· John Verrico - president-elect of the National Association of Government Communicators

·  Kathryn Foxhall - freelance reporter who has extensively researched the issue

For more on the surveys go to:

2013: http://www.spj.org/news.asp?REF=1155#1155

2012: http://spj.org/news.asp?ref=1099

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 90graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing and a Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing student population of more than 24,600 from 130 countries.