Friday, January 18, 2013

Federal booking mugs FOIA concern


Alan Miller at the Columbus Dispatch alerted me to a recent change of policy with the U.S. Marshal’s Service here in Ohio. See below:

Media: On December 12, 2012, the U.S. Marshals Service changed its policy of releasing booking photos of federal defendants. You can read their new policy here:

Fred Alverson
Law Enforcement Coordinator
U.S. Attorney's Office - Southern District of Ohio

I contacted Mark Caramanica, the Freedom of Information Director at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and he was kind enough to explain what is happening and why.

“The Marshals Service in Ohio previously had only released mug shots pursuant to federal FOIA requests originating from within the geographic jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee) but not the rest of the U.S. That’s because of a lawsuit and a Sixth Circuit appeals court decision from 1996. Pursuant to that ruling, mug shots were released in the Sixth Circuit under FOIA when the following conditions were met: 1) the defendant had been publicly named; 2) the defendant had been indicted; 3) the defendant had made a court appearance in connection with the indictment; and 4) there was an ongoing trial or appeal related to the indictment. Once a release was made under FOIA to someone from the Sixth Circuit, the Marshals would then honor requests from anywhere for the same mug shot on the reasoning that it is already in the public domain.

In accordance with the December 12 memo, the Marshals have now decided to NOT release mug shots under FOIA from within the Sixth Circuit either.

This is in light of two recent federal appellate court decisions in the Tenth and Eleventh Circuits that held that a federal mug shot could be withheld from public disclosure under FOIA’s privacy protections.

The release of booking mugs from the Justice Department has always been a problem, their position has been that they will proactively release photos of people charged with crimes only if it benefits some law-enforcement purpose. They have also in the past narrowly followed the 1996 ruling referenced above but only in the Sixth Circuit. They would continue to deny requests from all other jurisdiction unless the mug shot was previously released under FOIA in the Sixth Circuit.

The new policy seems to simply be a unilateral refutation of the law in the Sixth Circuit.”

Everyone has this problem, it’s not just an Ohio issue and no doubt you have developed work arounds to get these images. It is counter to Ohio state and local laws — and the practices of all other law-enforcement agencies and courts most of us deal with everyday.

Mark has been working on this issue for some time and would like to document specific examples of FOIA requests where you could no longer get a federal booking mug shot in light of the December 12 memo. If you have other examples, not necessarily tied to the December memo, please let us know.

Take a moment to talk to your reporters and get examples ASAP to Mark or me. Mark is reachable directly at:

Mark R. Caramanica
FOI Director
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
(703) 807-2100

The Reporters Committee is drafting a protest letter to the Justice Department for sign-on by the media. I understand ASNE will sign and so will APME.

We need your help to get a change of policy.


Teri Hayt
Executive Editor
GateHouse Ohio Newspapers
The Repository | The Times-Reporter
The Independent | The Suburbanite
(330) 580-8310

Monday, January 7, 2013

Roberts to receive 2013 President’s Award

NewsTrain Program Director and veteran journalist Michael Roberts will be the recipient of the 2013 Associated Press Media Editors President’s Award, the organization announced today.

Roberts has been involved with APME’s signature program, NewsTrain, from its inception in 2003. After starting as a featured speaker for the low-cost, national traveling journalism workshop, he became a crowd favorite and remained a staple of the program. Roberts became the program’s director in 2011.

"We are indebted to Michael for his service and dedication to NewsTrain,” said APME President Brad Dennison. "He’s passionate about the program and protective of its quality, and we’re fortunate to have him. It’s time to say ‘thank you’ in a public way.”

 The APME President’s Awards are given out each year at the discretion of the organization’s president, and this recognition comes just as NewsTrain celebrates its 10-year anniversary.

Roberts will receive the award at the 80th APME conference, to be held Oct. 28-30 in Indianapolis.

Roberts will oversee four NewsTrain workshops in 2013 – the host sites are yet to be named.

Sponsors of NewsTrain 2013 include The Associated Press, the APME Foundation, the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Gannett Foundation, the Scripps Howard Foundation, GateHouse Media Inc., Medicare News Group, Athlon Sports, and The World Company.

Outside of his work with NewsTrain, Roberts is a newsroom trainer and consultant who works with news organizations in the United States and Canada. He was deputy managing editor of staff development at The Arizona Republic from 2003 to 2010, where he was responsible for all newsroom training, served as writing coach and edited major projects.

Previously, Roberts designed and taught the American Press Institute's first online seminar for copy editors, and has presented programs for the Poynter Institute, American Press Institute, the Maynard Institute, Freedom Forum and various National Writers Workshops.

Before the Republic, Roberts was a senior editor, including 10 years as training editor/writing coach at The Cincinnati Enquirer. He has also held writing and editing positions at the Midland (Mich.) Daily News and the Detroit Free Press, and worked as an editor at two magazines. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and holds a master’s degree in training and human resource development from Xavier University in Cincinnati.

For more information contact: Brad Dennison,, 630-386-2945.

The Associated Press Media Editors is an association of top newspapers, digital and broadcast editors, as well as journalism educators and students in the United States and Canada. APME works closely with The Associated Press to foster journalism excellence and to support a national network for the training and development of editors who will run multimedia newsrooms in the 21st Century. APME is on the front line in setting ethical and journalistic standards for newspapers and in the battle for freedom of information and the First Amendment.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Many newsrooms devoted lots of resources to fact-checking during the 2012 election. Editors say those efforts seemed popular with voters, but remain uncertain about whether fact-checking really impacted the behavior of candidates.   

By Gary Graham and Jim Simon

   Many news organizations devoted significant resources to fact-checking candidate’s statements and advertising during the recent election season and generally drew praise from readers for the effort, according to a recent APME survey.
   Editors were more uncertain about the impacts of fact-checking on the campaigns.  When the accuracy of ads and accuracy of political statements were challenged, nearly three-quarters said the candidates didn’t modify claims. And in no cases, did any candidate pull a challenged ad, according to the editors surveyed.
   Still, even when campaigns ignored the fact-checking, several editors felt that it was a worthwhile service for voters.
   “While it didn’t seem to affect candidates and their messages, voters noted in interviews that that they were paying attention to fact-checking and that it had some affect in their decisions,” said one editor.    
   About 50 editors responded to the November Sounding Boards survey about coverage of this year’s elections.
   More than half – nearly 58 percent -- said they devoted significant resources to fact checking in their campaign coverage.
   At some organizations, reporters simply wedged the fact-checking into other reporting duties. A few editors said they assigned reporters and, sometimes an editor, to fact-checking nearly full time. Another editor said they partnered a member of their watchdog team with a political reporter to produce fact checks.
   Most of the respondents, about 62 percent, incorporated the fact checks into their spot news reporting.  About 10 percent of those surveyed used a “Truth Needle” or similar gauge that focused on single issues; while 24 percent wrote columns or editorials based on the fact checks.
   The fact checks didn’t prompt any changes in the behavior of candidates, according to 72 percent of the editors. About 17 percent said candidates modified their claims after inaccuracies were cited, but no one cited any cases of candidates pulling challenged ads.  
   Slightly more than half of those surveyed published some of AP’s fact checks in print or online; 14 percent published nearly all or most of AP’s fact checks. Another 15 percent said they used PoliFact or some other fact-checking product.
   In other findings, a third of editors who responded said the intensity of the presidential race was the biggest surprise in their coverage of the election.
   “As an Ohio newspaper,” wrote one editor,” “we expected to see the candidates and their surrogates, but the number and frequency of visits was beyond our expectations. It started much earlier than in 2004 and continued unabated.”
   An editor in the South said the intensity of negative campaigning in the presidential race kept his staff busy trying to produce issues-focused coverage.
    Twelve percent of the editors said the U.S. economy and unemployment dominated their coverage.
    Eighty-four percent of editors said they did not commission any polling this year.  Of those who commissioned polling, most said collaborating with other news organizations made the polling possible.
  More than 60 percent of the newspapers published voter guides in 2012 with 53 percent of them providing both print and online versions.
    More than a third offered online-only guides while 10 percent produced print sections. One newspaper's online-only section received more than one million page views.
During the campaign season, AP’s interactives were used by 12 percent of those surveyed, while 26 percent only used the election night map.