Thursday, December 29, 2005

DoD Denies News Blogger "Media" Status

This letter was sent via snail mail today to the Pentagon.

Will Kammer
Chief, FOIA Office
Department of Defense
1155 Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1155

Re: Appeal of denial for expedited processing, fee waivers

Dear Mr. Kammer:

I am in receipt of your two letters to me, both dated December 19, in response to two Freedom of Information Act requests I filed with your office earlier this month. You’ve assigned one request the number 06-F-0564, and the other request has been given number 06-F-0530.

In both cases, you’ve denied me expedited processing status and won’t waive searching and copying costs beyond a certain point, because of your strict interpretation of the Act’s definition of what constitutes a news outlet and who is a member of the news media.

This letter serves as my formal appeal of your decisions denying me quick processing and fee waivers.

You rejected my request for fast-tracking and waivers regarding fees based on DoD Regulation 5400.7-R, which defines how the Pentagon determines who’s a news reporter.

Your letter says this regulation “applies to persons actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. Examples of news media entities include television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large, and publishers of periodicals (but only in those instances when they can qualify as disseminators of ‘news’) who make their products available for purchase or subscription to the general public.”

I strongly disagree with your severely limited interpretation of what qualifies as a news entity, especially in today’s world with so much news disseminated exclusively over the web; news that never appears in print or broadcast on TV, yet reaches a vast audience.

Your letter also states that expedited processing may be granted if “an individual is primarily engaged in disseminating information […] whose primary activity involves publishing or otherwise disseminating information to the public.”

I wish to remind you that disseminating news and information is exactly what I do on my news blog on a daily basis and is the reason why I am appealing your denials.

Now is a good time for DoD to recognize news blogs as an integral component of the news media and to grant news bloggers the same rights, privileges and appropriate statuses as a reporter for the more traditional mainstream media.

Please forward this appeal request to the proper authorities within the DoD FOIA office.

Michael Petrelis

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