'Backyard brawl': Trump fracas informs teaching, research, service

• Click here for the full study.

• “Trump to make FOI great again” (pages 19-20)

AZPM interview on journalism in Trump era (8:45 mark)

• “Pro se power: How to sue for public records on your own” (pages 32-33)

David Cuillier speaks at FOIA Fest in Chicago on Feb. 25.

The battle waged between President Donald J. Trump and the media is creating historic opportunities for student learning and faculty research at the UA School of Journalism.

School Director David Cuillier, whose research, service and teaching focuses on press freedom, has been busy this past month, wrapping up a study for the Knight Foundation on the state of freedom of information where he surveyed and interviewed more than 300 journalists and experts. The report, "Forecasting Freedom of Information," was released March 12.

“One reporter told me it’s going to be a ‘backyard brawl’ and he was right,” Cuillier said. “This is an amazing opportunity for students and the public to see just how important journalism is for democracy.”

Cuillier recently provided advice for reporters in a Quill magazine article, “Trump to make FOI great again” (pages 19-20), in which he lists 10 ways journalists can “push back at all levels of government, whether covering the White House or town hall.”

"Frankly, we're starting to see press oppression. Journalists are being singled out just for doing their jobs," Cuillier said at FOIA Fest in Chicago, where he was the keynote speaker on Feb. 25.

Cuillier also wrote a Feb. 26 column for the Arizona Republic: "Trump's attacks on the media attack us all" and an IRE Journal column, “Pro se power: How to sue for public records on your own” (pages 32-33).

The associate professor and Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller analyzed journalism in the Trump era in a Feb. 17 PBS 6 television interview with Arizona Public Media’s Lorraine Rivera (8:45 mark).

Cuillier, on the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Committee, is former SPJ national president and co-author of “The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records.”

“The current state of national affairs illustrates just how important the school is for training dedicated, skilled and ethical journalists,” Cuillier said. “We continue to do that every day, as we have for 66 years. It doesn’t matter who is president – journalists are there to shine light in dark recesses and provide people the information they need to self-govern. If there is any time for journalists to bear down, it is now.”

In addition, the Arizona Daily Wildcat interviewed Cuillier on the Arizona Board of Regents' illegal secrecy regarding the UA president search in a Feb. 27 story, and the Arizona Daily Star also interviewed Cuillier in a Feb. 28 story: "Short list in UA president search not disclosed."

The Arizona Board of Regents has since named two finalists to replace Ann Weaver Hart: Dr. Robert C. Robbins and Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan.

In his Quill article, Cuillier says Trump's presidency "is the best thing that could have ever happened for freedom of information."

“We know from history that threats to democracy result in bolstered freedom of information,” Cuillier writes. “Excessive government secrecy following World War II led journalists to push for the Freedom of Information Act. Watergate inspired a host of states to pass open record laws. The PATRIOT Act and increased post-Iraq War secrecy led to emergence of more state open government coalitions and federal FOIA advocacy groups.”

Adds Cuillier in Quill: "The First Amendment is durable. The press, as a proxy for the public, is powerful, and by the end of the next four years we an actually improve FOI.”

Published Date: 

02/22/2017 - 11:46am