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City attorney's proposal would put some restrictions on media

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The Augusta Commission's Legal Administration committee didn't meet today because it lacked a quorum, meaning an attempt by General Counsel Chiquita Johnson to get news reporters out of public meeting rooms will have to wait until a later date.

If enacted, some of the changes she's proposing would be illegal, according to Georgia Press Association and Augusta Chronicle attorney David Hudson. Contrary to the state's open meetings law, the city's attorney is attempting to single out journalists for restrictions at public meetings.

A resolution drafted by the Law Department, attached to Monday's agenda, says reporters' equipment takes up too much space in the small room attached to commission chambers used for committee meetings, creating "actual and potential dangers" for commissioners and the public and potentially blocking access for persons with disabilities. The resolution also says cell phones, pagers and other electronic devices are causing too many "unwanted disruptions."

Ms. Johnson is proposing to hold all meetings in the commission chambers and convert the smaller room into a "media room," where a live broadcast of meetings would be shown. In the meeting room itself, one or more areas could be set up for cameras and other equipment, which reporters could use on a "first come basis."

The resolution would also require that all media interviews be conducted in the media room, banning reporters from talking to elected officials in commission chambers or in the hallway, which Ms. Johnson contends impedes traffic, disrupts government business and poses safety risks.

Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason, the only committee member present, said he will support no such resolution.

Mr. Hudson said the media room proposal would be acceptable as long as it's optional for reporters.

As for restricting interviews, he said, that would be illegal unless the commission wants to ban all conversation in chambers and in the hallway.

As for restricting where cameras can be situated, that too would be illegal if reporters are being given less space in the room than other members of the public.

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johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 12/08/09 - 05:20 am
0
0
Let's hope Chiquita's days

Let's hope Chiquita's days are numbered.

AnotherPerspective
0
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AnotherPerspective 12/08/09 - 08:17 am
0
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If you have nothing to hide,

If you have nothing to hide, hide nothing.

austinevans
0
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austinevans 12/08/09 - 08:28 am
0
0
Illegal, chiquita, imagine

Illegal, chiquita, imagine that!!!!

austinevans
0
Points
austinevans 12/08/09 - 08:30 am
0
0
Lets up chiquita and jerri

Lets up chiquita and jerri are on the same bus out of town. Their canning has been long over due!

Little Lamb
47048
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Little Lamb 12/08/09 - 08:51 am
0
0
They could hold the meetings

They could hold the meetings in the new TEE center. That would be big enough for all.

justus4
107
Points
justus4 12/08/09 - 09:05 am
0
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If the AWM is so important,
Unpublished

If the AWM is so important, why doesn't the makeup of the so-called reporters LOOK like America? Why doesn't the newsrooms LOOK like America, meaning where are the minority citizens reporters. Absent! And having one foolish person of color acting as some kinda prop does not represent diversity. The real concerns of the General Counsel, and any informed citizen, is that the non-minority media practices deception on a daily basis to distort facts. An example: why aren't any "reporters" reporting or speeking, or shouting, or questioning, or inferring anything about the attempted bribe of two elected officials? A minority reporter would be "all over the story" while others make excuses about the facts. That's why diversity is important and since there is none, why allow ANY reporters inside the chambers? They can speek to commissioners in the hallway or over the phone like is probably commonly done.

Georgiais1
0
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Georgiais1 12/08/09 - 09:24 am
0
0
justice + Chiquita + Gerri =

justice + Chiquita + Gerri = idiots

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 12/08/09 - 09:28 am
0
0
I like Gerri Sams better when

I like Gerri Sams better when he was on TV.

itscapt
14
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itscapt 12/08/09 - 09:29 am
0
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Need to work on your verbs

Need to work on your verbs and spelling Justus. Outrage & Bologna level seems about the usual.

cleanup
0
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cleanup 12/08/09 - 10:15 am
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Justus, you're an idiot, just

Justus, you're an idiot, just like Chiquita, and that has nothing to do with race, just idiocy.

dstewartsr
20389
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dstewartsr 12/08/09 - 10:22 am
0
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This just reeks of yet

This just reeks of yet another hugely expensive lawsuit Augusta has provoked, and will lose. An average elementary school kid could read Georgia's open meeting law and tell you that. This entire bunch isn't as smart as a fifth grader.

FedupwithAUG
0
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FedupwithAUG 12/08/09 - 10:24 am
0
0
Maybe it is know those

Maybe it is know those commisioners that were offered a bribe have taken bribes in the past and they don't want to much attention on them because this fact may come out?

FedupwithAUG
0
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FedupwithAUG 12/08/09 - 10:25 am
0
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Hope they took this into

Hope they took this into consideration with the new building on Walton Way.

KingJames
10
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KingJames 12/08/09 - 12:03 pm
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They should ask the fire

They should ask the fire marshall to come to the meetings and determine if members of the media and their equipment pose a potential safety hazard that would impede emergency egress. If they don't, then leave it alone. If they and their equipment are a hazard, then they should be required to move. If their interview tactics cause congestion in the commission chamber, then commissioners should make a point to avail themselves for interviews outside. This proposal doesn't sound like it should be enacted without input from the fire marshall since Ms. Johnson says it is for safety reasons.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 12/08/09 - 01:14 pm
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Just don't let The Banana

Just don't let The Banana around any credit cards.

ron_rlw
1
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ron_rlw 12/08/09 - 02:05 pm
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If the reporter's equipment

If the reporter's equipment are too big for the report ... then there is a simple solution ... Tape both video and audio versions of the meetings and distribute them to the new media. A small fee could be charged for the tape ... well less than a $100 ... to cover the cost. This would only require one camera and one recorder.

As far as not allowing the reporters to talk to the commissioners in the hallway ... well I believe the 1st Amendment right to free speech would cover that.

The all Commission meetings should be open and recorded unless specific reason are given. The discussions on why a close door meeting is needed should also be recorded.

harrisburgwillrise
0
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harrisburgwillrise 12/08/09 - 02:12 pm
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Hey Justus. I have seen

Hey Justus. I have seen Chris Thomas at every Commission meeting I have attended, and I have done many interviews with him. He is African American by the way, and a great reporter. Ryan Calhoun who is also African American has filled in for him at Commission meetings, He has also interviewed me and is a wonderful reporter. Both work for Channel 12.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 12/08/09 - 02:16 pm
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Chris Thomas is the best

Chris Thomas is the best Investigative Reporter in Augusta IMO

FallingLeaves
27
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FallingLeaves 12/08/09 - 04:46 pm
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All of our local reporters

All of our local reporters shine at times. I don't think Chris Thomas is the best one, but he has his good moments. I like Scott Hudson, but Scott is a reporter for radio, so that is a little bit different.

gargoyle
18677
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gargoyle 12/08/09 - 05:04 pm
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ron rlw Thats a slippery

ron rlw Thats a slippery slope you have proposed ... The biggest problem being who is in charge of turning the recording on and off... Ms. Johnson should have some insight about the laws she is about to break since her resume clamed she was a expert in these matters ... I did wonder when she hired on about her short tenures in other positions ... Public records indicate this is the longest gig she has had ...

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 12/08/09 - 05:10 pm
0
0
Chris Thomas shined on the

Chris Thomas shined on the TEE Center coverage.. he was about the only one asking the critical questions. I was a bit dissappointed that Hudson was not as critical in his reporting on the TEE center. Sometimes he seems a bit selective.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 12/08/09 - 05:12 pm
0
0
I think George Eskola has the

I think George Eskola has the best talent for this but for whatever reason, WJBF chooses to have him covering fluff and stuff,,, you can tell he wants to delve deeper, but isn't given the time on air to do so. I remember back in the 80s Eskola did a lot of hard hitting reporting.. then they started sending him "somewhere out there."

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 12/08/09 - 05:14 pm
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hmmm gargoyle.. ever wonder

hmmm gargoyle.. ever wonder why she had such short tenures in her other positions??... seems a good investigative reporter could figure this one out

bettyboop
7
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bettyboop 12/08/09 - 05:32 pm
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Fire the bananna !!!!!

Fire the bananna !!!!!

CorporalGripweed
0
Points
CorporalGripweed 12/08/09 - 06:31 pm
0
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I heard Scott Hudson's report

I heard Scott Hudson's report on the radio and laughed out loud when he made the point that ..paraphrasing here....It makes you wonder about the competency of the city attorney who obviously fails to grasp the concept of the first amendment.

AnotherPerspective
0
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AnotherPerspective 12/08/09 - 08:44 pm
0
0
Broadcast and news in the

Broadcast and news in the same sentence. Haha. Now that is really funny. Broadcast is all about pretty pictures, flashy sound bites and gotcha interviews. Broadcast "reporters" wouldn't know hard news if it scrolled across the TelePrompTer. You guys crack me up.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 12/08/09 - 10:00 pm
0
0
Joe Neal, Jr would make a

Joe Neal, Jr would make a good, competent city attormey. I doubt he'd want the job though.

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