Freedom OF the Press vs. Freedom FROM the Press

Freedom of the press is certainly a bedrock American concept, up there with suburbia, the Super Bowl, and “Dancing with the Stars.”  But what about freedom FROM the press?

 

That is the question headlining a recent Inside Higher Ed feaure in which administrators at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln argue they possess a right to not be inundated by press requests without reason.  The UNL chancellor said staffers specifically have taken issue with the large amount of documents requests being made by staffers helming The Daily Nebraskan‘s new projects desk.  According to the chancellor: “They [the DN] have a pattern of asking for broad, sweeping documents without any effort to or pretense of having a story.  They just want to randomly walk through records.”

 

 

Apparently, UNL has complied with requests for all documents required under state and federal public records laws, but higher-ups have objected to those deemed pointless and way too broad.  A few examples: “a recent Daily Nebraskan request for all other FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests made of the university throughout the past four years and a list of the institution’s formal response to each. . . . [T]he newspaper has also requested blanket e-mail correspondences between administrators during specific time periods and the university’s automotive expenditures for the year.”

 

In response, a vitriol has weaved its way into the previously-friendly relationship between school and student paper.  The university has cut off access to top officials.  The DN wrote an editorial chastising admins in response and declaring themselves “punished for doing our job.”  A fellow student newspaper in Illinois also wrote a spirited pro-DN editorial headlined “Don’t Bully the College Press.” 

 

The situation hasn’t quite reached Q-levels (Quinnipiac levels) but the DN and UNL acronyms definitely are being said together with a sigh rather than a smile right now in Lincoln.  The chancellor: “I hate it. . . . I’d be delighted if we could go back to where we were.”

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