Press Release: Schick Appeals Ruling in Open Records Lawsuit

For Immediate Release

Contact: Daniel Levitas, Esq.: 404-405-4775

The plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has appealed the September 24, 2014 decision of Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney for failing to award attorney’s fees despite fining the Board $1,000 for what the Judge termed “technical violations” of the law.

Student journalist David Schick filed the lawsuit on June 10, 2013 seeking an injunction directing the Board to comply with the Georgia Open Records Act and produce documents concerning a $25 million budget shortfall that occurred at Georgia Perimeter College in 2012.

Almost two months after the lawsuit was filed, the Board of Regents handed over an additional 713 pages to Mr. Schick, claiming the documents were inadvertently misplaced, despite several attempts by Mr. Schick to ensure the Board had complied with the law and given him all the documents he had asked for.

Why am I mailing my application?

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In 52 days I will have successfully jumped through four years—err, five years—of hoops to finally get my college degree (I know, it’s exciting right?).

Therefore, I’m in the process of sending out applications for internships and jobs to just about every journalism opening that I feel I’m qualified for (and others that I may be reaching for). During this process, I’ve come across a few weird requests from some major media companies. Namely, the requirement to mail your internship application—no exceptions/no email applications will be accepted!

No, I’m not kidding. These legacy news organizations, in 2014, want their applicants to physically send in printed everything. From resumés to cover letters to newspaper clips that must be photocopied onto 8½ by 11 paper. Just stick all of that into an envelope and you’re on your way to an internship with The Washington PostBoston Globe, or Dallas Morning News. And those are just the three that I’ve found so far.

#SaveWRAS won’t save their ass

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The Georgia Public Broadcasting takeover of the student-run Georgia State University radio station WRAS 88.5 FM has not lacked coverage from the media since the announcement. This story about an ethically questionable back-room deal orchestrated by GSU President Mark Becker and GPB has made its way from local to national news outlets.

An army of supporters — musicians, alumni, student-media advocates, lawyers and rabble-rousers (such as myself) — have amassed around the student staffers ready to do their bidding.

From my vantage point, there’s just one problem: The student staffers lack the backbone to create real change.

GPB’s recent push back of their start date wasn’t, and isn’t, intended to hear students out. It’s one of two things (or both):

  1. GPB doesn’t have their shit together and isn’t ready to take over the station.
  2. A not so subtle public relations move intended to let media stories die down.

Read this Schick 5/16/14 weekly round up

Every week I post a collection of links that I deem worth a Schick.

  • Student Press Law Center’s Frank LoMonte responds to Georgia Public Broadcasting takeover of WRAS 88.5 FM: “To say that you did not consult the campus community before making the decision because you knew that the community would react badly is the approach of a 16-year-old sneaking out the window of his family’s house after curfew. ‘It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission’ rarely works out well for teenagers, and it is not working out well for Georgia State, either.

State seeks to have journalist remove published open records

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Still no ruling yet in my open records trial against the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, but there are some other interesting developments — like the BOR trying to stifle a journalist’s First Amendment rights.

The BOR has filed a motion asking the court to force me to remove already published material from my blog because there were four pages of documents that were “inadvertently disclosed” and allegedly “were exempt pursuant to the presidential search exemption” of the Georgia Open Records Act.

This attempt to force me to remove these records from my blog was also made at the beginning of trial, but the judge denied the BOR request.

As described by BOR attorneys in their motion filed today:

#SaveWRAS Twitter data

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Word cloud of all #SaveWRAS tweets

It started with one tweet.

A week later… There has been 5,683 #SaveWRAS tweets. I think it’s fair to say that this is the essence of a hashtag activism campaign. Ever since news broke about the Georgia Public Broadcasting takeover of WRAS 88.5 FM, one of the most powerful and longest running college radio stations, people have taken to Twitter in an effort to show their support. So I decided to do a little bit of scripting, a little bit of coding and put Twitter’s user-friendly API to work pulling all the #SaveWRAS tweets and see how much support there was.

Read this Schick 5/9/14: My first viral blog post

I’ve decided that I’m going to start posting a weekly collection of links that I’ve read, which I consider worth a Schick. The links will mostly, but not always, go along the lines of the usual topic of my #MiscSchick thread.

hitman wanted

  • I won’t normally link to my own stuff, since this is my blog, but I wrote a thing for Flagpole Magazine last week about two UGA students who posted a “Hit Man Wanted” ad to Craigslist and since then it’s gone viral. Everyone from Atlanta-Journal Constitution to Daily Mail, to Jezebel, to Time has picked up the story. Glad to know that my in-depth reporting skills aren’t being wasted.

Former GPC president files RICO lawsuit

Anthony Tricoli filed a lawsuit today against a handful of former and current Georgia Perimeter College employees — as well as officials at the University System of Georgia — for “acts of fraud” which he alleges were conspired against him to remove him from office.

Here’s the list of Defendants:

Rob Watts, GPC interim president
Ron Carruth, former GPC Chief Budget Officer
Jim Rasmus, GPC human resources executive director
Mark Gerspacher, former GPC budget director
Sheletha Champion, former GPC assistant VP for fiscal affairs
Henry Huckaby, USG chancellor
John Fuchko, USG chief audit officer
Steve Wrigley, USG executive vice chancellor
Benjamin J. Tarbutton III, USG board chairman
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia
Sam Olens, attorney general of Georgia
Rob Jenkins, GPC associate professor of English.

Here’s a link to the full complaint

No, J-schools aren’t teaching the right skills

Are journalism schools teaching their students the right skills?

At the risk of sounding redundant… No, they’re not.

In a recent piece for Nieman Journalism Lab linked above, Cindy Royal asks a question at the forefront of many posts within the online journalism community. As a journalism student, I’m glad the question is being posited, but I have my doubts this will amount to any real change within J-schools.

Royal says as journalists today, “We work in tech.” This idea is so true it’s hard to fathom why journalists aren’t required to minor in some area of computer science to get their journalism degrees. The essential technology skills, which Royal advocates for — in the form of platform literacy — are not taught in depth in any J-school classroom I’ve been in. And there seems to be a resistance from the old school way of thinking that it’s more important to “reinforce the basic tenets of journalism.” This could not be more backwards.

GPC budget crisis recap: a year later, all is well?

Almost two years after Georgia Perimeter College’s $25 million budget shortfall and everything appears to be back to normal.

In an email from Interim President Rob Watts earlier this year, he confirmed to faculty and staff via email that all is well at GPC:

Just as a reminder, we had an extremely poor state audit report for the previous fiscal year, fiscal year 2012, which covered the period July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, ground zero of the college’s financial crisis.  The fiscal year 2012 report contained seven audit findings, of which five were classified as material weaknesses, the worst kind of audit finding.  In addition, the auditors found a number of figures in our financial statements that they needed to correct.

Lay of the open records lawsuit

As many of you know, I filed lawsuit against the University System of Georgia on June 10, 2013. Since then a lot has happened.

USG’s Verified Answers and Defenses

In response to my complaint, the Board of Regents is invoking several defenses from claiming that “no wrongful act [was] committed” to the doctrine of “sovereign immunity.” I doubt that any of their defenses will hold up, but my guess is that this is an attempt to throw everything they can at us to see what sticks. Also, the BOR claims that my allegations and requests are now “moot” because — after I was forced to file a lawsuit — they “produced all responsive documents within [their] possession custody, and control.”

If you’ll remember, I wrote several blog posts that highlighted how business is conducted among top officials at the USG following their response to my complaint, which included open records that had not yet been produced. It also raised more questions regarding Georgia Perimeter College’s budget deficit.