Sunday, June 28, 2009

Michigan Last in Public Disclosure; Hiatus at Free Michigan

Despite passing legislation in the House regarding public disclosure of financial information for state officials, the bill, HB 4381 has stalled in the Senate. And now, a new study from The Center for Public Integrity finds our state ranks last in public disclosure for public officials.
Considering how the recession has struck the state's newspapers, it's hardly news that this has happened. The media's ability to act as watchdog has eroded considerably.
In our case, we at Free Michigan do this for free, as so many bloggers do. And now, we are taking some time and heading to Texas to work with Texas Watchdog, an esteemed group that we feel represents the future of journalism. Non-partisan coverage of anything, be it a city, issue or statehouse, is crucial. Transparency, as we've noted previously, is a somewhat blurry notion. Texas Watchdog doggedly pursues it better than anyone without even a hint of an agenda other than the truth. This is the journalist spot in which to be.
Here in Michigan, we have some troubles that we hope will be addressed in the future; a supposedly major newspaper located blocks from the statehouse with no capital presence; thinly staffed Lansing bureaus for the two Detroit papers; and several small Lansing bureaus for other media outlets in the state. Free Michigan has been embraced, it appears, primarily by audiences on the right. We take our readers where we can get them, but there is no reason that all of us - right left, center - can't agree that an open government serves the people best. When a state is in a free fall, as Michigan is, we have to look first at the leadership. At the top, that means the governor, be that leader a Republican or a Democrat. In this case, it's a Democrat. When the attorney general's office is accused of overcharging for a public records request, we simply open the records the best we can. In this case, it has been a Republican in charge of that office. Keep us on your favorites list; We'll be back in a while and will be providing updates on our work in Texas while noting developments in watchdog journalism, so please keep your eye on this page in the coming weeks.

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