You just had a call from an attorney for the subject of a Letter to the Editor. The attorney said the letter was published with reckless disregard, contained a number of untruths and is threatening a lawsuit.
Your reporter just called to say the local school board went into an executive session and did not quote the Open Meetings Law section allowing it to enter into executive session. Or other persons outside the public agency entered the executive session but the reporter was told to stay away.
Your court reporter is at the courthouse and the county clerk is refusing to turn over what should be an Open Record. Another reporter is at the courthouse and the judge just announced she’s closing the hearing and your reporter was told to leave the courtroom.
What do you do? In any and every of these situations? First, you don’t take it laying down.
Instead you pick up the phone and call 502-416-1630. That’s a direct line to the KPA Freedom of Information Hotline.
Those of you who have been around several years know all about the FOI Hotline. And you throw around the names of Jon Fleischaker and Michael Abate and Casey Hinkle and Andrea Aikin like they’re old friends. And you can add the name Rick Adams, to that list of attorneys standing by to help. Rick recently joined the law firm. They are friends of every KPA member newspaper.
But with many new faces at newspapers around the state, the KPA FOI Hotline may be unfamiliar territory.
Formed in the mid 1980s with Jon Fleischaker and his wife Kim Greene as the lead attorneys, KPA began its own FOI Hotline. While several states now have these direct lines to a First Amendment attorney, from the beginning the KPA version was set up differently. It’s been free. While getting access to the top media attorneys in the state, newspapers get the access because they pay dues to KPA. It comes with the territory and in most every cases, only costs the long distance call to Louisville. There’s no additional charge to pick up the phone and speak with one of the attorneys about your situation or question.
Now the attorneys won’t represent your newspaper should a case warrant taking the issue to the next level (representing your newspaper would be a cost your newspaper would have to pay) but just to ask a question and find out what you or your newspaper needs to do to correct the situation is covered as a Member Service.
Neither will they edit a story or offer a rewrite. But in case there’s a question about the content of a story or a letter to the editor, the sufficient warning would be something like, “If you publish this letter or story, you can expect a lawsuit.” That’s the red flag warning that something is seriously wrong with the story that could result in costly actions.
While most of the questions over the 35 or so years have dealt with Open Meetings, Open Records, Open Courts, they will discuss other subjects. Maybe it’s a statement in an ad that just doesn’t sound right. Or the advertiser is using a copyrighted logo or trademark that you believe it doesn’t have permission to use in the ad.
Whatever the situation might be that you or your newspaper is facing, chances are you can get expert advice from the best First Amendment attorneys in Kentucky.
KPA pays the retainer for these attorneys to operate the KPA FOI Hotline. That’s why, unless extra representation is needed in a case, you won’t pay anything except the phone call to Louisville. And if you have a cell phone with unlimited minutes, it won’t even cost you that.
Next time there’s a situation affecting the newsroom, advertising, employees or whatever the case might be, just call 502-416-1630 and ask for Jon Fleischaker, Michael Abate, Casey Hinkle, Andrea Aikin or Rick Adams. Identify yourself and your newspaper and let them know you calling the KPA FOI Hotline because you need advice.
You’ll be glad you did.