Friday, May 30, 2008


Robbie LaFleur, Director of the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, has been named recipient of the 2008 Peter S. Popovich Award. The Popovich Award is given each year by the Minnesota Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to “the person or organization that exemplifies the fight for First Amendment Rights.” SPJ will present the award at the 2008 Page One Awards Banquet on Thursday, June 12, at the Town & Country Club in St. Paul.
The award was named for the late Peter S. Popovich, a champion of open government during his years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, as the chief judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals and as the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In nominating LaFleur the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information noted that, “for nearly a decade Robbie has been Director of the Legislative Reference Library, the special library that serves members and staff of the Minnesota State Legislature. Though her primary clientele is the Legislature, Robbie has distinguished herself by always bearing in mind and addressing the needs of the public, including investigative journalists who are steady customers at the LRL.”

Nominators noted the immense technological changes that have occurred during LaFleur’s tenure. To address those changes “Robbie has participated in countless significant task forces and committees dealing with state information policy…Thus, the impact of her leadership extends far beyond the LRL and the Legislature.”

LaFleur and staff of the LRL have been honored with numerous awards and citations for excellence in the provision of access to government information.

For additional information contact:
Mary Treacy
Minnesota Coalition on Government Information
612 781 4234

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Minnesota Monitor – NKOTB

James Sanna’s great piece about Minnesota Monitor (The New(ish) Kid on the Block 5-26-08) is making its way through the media maze -- and with good reason. Sanna describes the origins, mission and staff of MM with clarity. He goes on to analyze the context, including MM’s “sibling” enterprises linked through the Center for Independent Media network of news websites.

It’s a good story and a great introduction to the forthcoming National Conference on Media Reform, sponsored by Free Press and coming to Minneapolis June 6-8. “Key issues include net neutrality, media consolidation, the future of the internet and the quality of journalism.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Couple of Great Blogs

No longer is it a question of getting home in time for a favorite TV show - there’s little to watch and, if it’s really good, it’ll be on YouTube. Of late, though, I’ve found myself wanting to be near the computer mid-day, anticipating two of my favorite “you’ve got mail” beeps.

One is MinnPost, always loaded with the day’s news and views. The other is the beep from State Sunshine and Open Records, a product of the Lucy Burns Institute, a Madison, Wisconsin nonprofit dedicated to sharing information, guidance, practical advice, legal developments and news about open records at the state and local level. The voice is that of Leslie Graves.
This blog is fresh, full of snippets, tidbits, tips, foi-ish gossip, and fun! Take, for example, the Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week award. Or consider a recent blog devoted to the access challenges at the school system level. Or check out this best use of FOIA entry. It’ll give you the flavor.
Signing up for the email version will give you that healthy mid-day boost of energy to press on, knowing that the good fight is not without good people, good information and good humor.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bill Moyers' Journal

The trail of information - from creation through processing through application -- is always a path forged by real people, people who do the research, who organize the results, who select and review, who dig and piece together and create then share information that - finally - makes a difference.

Bill Moyers most recent Journal, aired last Friday, offers one of the best articulations of that process I have ever seen. The topic the chemical Bisphenol A, but it’s the process that captivated my attention.

Stars of the show are a trio of investigative journalists on the staff of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Prodded by an appropriately pushy editor they set out to track the story of Bisphenol A. Their laborious investigation involves federal government deadends, hours in the stacks of the University of Wisconsin library and the keen analytic minds of concerned journalists.

The interim result is a remarkable series on “Chemical Fallout” that exposes the facts. On May 20, 2008 a reform bill was introduced - in spite of government blockage and the compromise of corporate and professional organizations along the way.

The reporting team who broke the story are taking viewer questions about the story and their work as investigative reporters on The Moyers Blog. Check out the video and the text on the Bill Moyers Journal. This is just how it’s supposed to work!

Monday, May 19, 2008

COGI-tations - Patrice McDermott on June 9

COGI-tations: A program of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information

Patrice McDermott
Director, Open the Government

Monday, June 9, 2008 time: 5-7 p.m.

100 Murphy Hall, SJMC Conference Center
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
206 Church Street, Minneapolis
University of Minnesota East Bank Campus
( Parking in the Washington Ave or East River Road Ramp or try MTC! )

Since 2006 Patrice McDermott has been Director of Open the Government, one of Washington DC’s most effective advocacy organizations committed to transparency in government and an informed public. Previously Dr. McDermott served as Deputy Director of the Office of Government Relations at the American Library Association Washington Office and as the senior information policy analyst for OMB Watch.

Patrice earned her doctorate in political science from the University of Arizona and a Master of Science in Library and Information Management from Emory University. She is the author of several books including Who Needs to Know? The State of Public Access to Federal Government Information. Dr. McDermott is also a member of the prestigious National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame.

Sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information
Minnesota Journalism Center
Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law
Institute for New Media Studies
University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Free and Open to the Public Information:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What’s the holdup for Minnesota’s database?

Todd Kruse’s crusade to have the sun shine in on Minnesota state government spending got some ink in a 5/16 Star Tribune editorial, “A blogger’s quest: Where’s the database?” Kruse seeks to have the Minnesota Department of Administration fully implement last year’s State Government and Omnibus Act. To comply with the 2007 Act, the state needs to create a database to track spending on contracts and grants.

Kruse is not alone in his quest. The National Taxpayer’s Union is one of several groups tracking similar developments on the state level on its site, Good for Todd Kruse and the National Taxpayer’s Union for their diligence in pursuing transparency in government.

What’s the holdup for Minnesota’s database? It’s not lack of software; it’s readily available. The Minnesota Department of Administration estimates the cost at $1 to $1.5 million, and cites lack of dedicated funding. The cost of such a database is not as high as the Department antidicpates. The federal government implemented software that tracked spending for ~$200K last year – a fraction of the state’s estimate.

Here’s the evolution of the database tracking software. In 2006, OMB Watch devised In 2007, the federal government found it to be so compelling that it adopted it as its own. And so, was born. The same software the feds use is – and has been – available to Minnesota. The mandate from the legislature is almost a year old. Only the data appears to be lacking. Could 2008 be the year MN gets its database to track its own spending?

Helen Burke,