Opening Access: Pushing Back on Restrictive Communication Policies

▪︎ MARCH 16 AT 10:30 A.M. MT ▪︎

America’s public schools are coming under unusually strong attention from the general public — scrutiny communities typically rely on journalists to provide.

The issues are as disparate as masking mandates and COVID-19 testing; decisions around the spending of federal pandemic relief funds; the pros and cons of virtual vs. in-person learning; gun threats; and a rising trend of lawmakers and parents’ demanding that schoolchildren not be taught certain subjects such as human sexuality and the history of racism.

Journalists face multiple barriers, many government- or district-imposed, to covering these complex topics. Practices like filtering all interviews through public information officers seriously impairs journalists’ ability to cover these weighty subjects, while prohibiting teachers, school staff and other key education officials from sharing their stories. Add in policies that limit access to key education-related data-sets, and answering the public’s questions in a timely, thoughtful, and detailed manner becomes exceedingly difficult.

In honor of Sunshine Week, expert panelists will explore the impact of these government restrictions on press coverage of public schools and how to work around them. Produced by the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the discussion will offer strategies and tools to overcome these barriers.

Panelists include:
– Eva-Marie Ayala, Education Lab editor for The Dallas Morning News
– Frank LoMonte, director of the Joseph L. Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida
– Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
– Moderator: Delece Smith-Barrow, education editor at POLITICO

Registration is now open for this program, which will take place on March 16 at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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