Bill Bell is the editor of the Whittier Daily News. According to a recent column, he has been a journalist for 50 years.
This long experience has given him a long perspective on access to government information, especially from law enforcement agencies.
What has this experience taught him?
Today, part of the big picture in the news business is how official agencies of the government make it harder and harder to come by information that is suppose to be available to the public. That might seem like a fairly narrow concern, yet it is a symptom of a chronic societal cancer that is helping to destroy our species.
Much of his column is about how open and informal local information gathering used to be. In Mr. Bell’s view, it depended on police being intelligent enough to know what information could be divulged w/o spoiling their case and reporters sophisticated enough not to burn their sources for a single juicy story. But over all, he implies the level of information sharing, at least at the local level was high.
How does he see the situation now?
What’s it like today? The Freedom of Information Act has spelled out that a huge amount of government information and records are available to the public.
But government agencies seem to make it exceedingly difficult to get to the records they consider most sensitive, despite the FOIA.
And, as for local cops and deputies being forthcoming with information that should be available immediately, that’s a bygone era. We get it when they feel like providing it.
How true and how sad. But I’m glad to see we still have people like Mr. Bell pointing out the importance of transparency at all levels of government.