Our Freedom of Information Issue salutes the winners of the 2011 James Madison Awards
"His entire philosophy is to exploit the relatively strong public records laws in this state in order to provide his readers with the real deal on local government behavior," said Tom Newton, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publishers Association. "He doesn't take no for an answer."
Indeed, Crews prides himself on standing up to the powers-that-be. "Young reporters say, 'What's the most important word for journalists?' And I say, 'After compassion, defiance.' "
Yet the Valley Mirror now faces $100,000 in legal fees because a local judge — once the subject of a Valley Mirror exposé — ruled that Crews' lawsuit against the Glenn County Board of Education for violating the CPRA was "frivolous." The steep price tag reflects the price of attorneys hired by local government to take on Crews in court.
"This newspaper can no more afford to pay a $100,000 judgment than a fly," Crews said. "It's ruinous." The case is on appeal, but he views the ruling as "a very well orchestrated attempt to crush a paper that uses the CPRA aggressively. Because in fact, most of the conservative members of the community, including some in Democratic ranks, regard open government as just unwieldy and not good. Just not good for people to know all these things."
The case is on appeal. But if the ruling holds, it could set a very bad precedent, said Terry Francke of the watchdog group CalAware. "It puts any newspaper in a small county in a very perilous state," he said.
Outside of court, Crews still enjoys a great deal of support and admiration — including from Foglesong's widow. "Because of Tim, this thing is going to get solved," said Jan Foglesong, who has since moved to Mississippi, where her husband was buried. "Because of him, we're getting a little justice for Bud." (Rebecca Bowe)
Duffy Carolan is a lawyer who understands how newspapers work. A journalism major at California Polytechnic State University, she started her career selling ads at the Fremont Argus and writing columns for the Alameda Times-Star. So when she graduated from the University of San Francisco Law School, it's no surprise that she wound up doing media law.
Her first law job was at the Oakland firm Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May, where she worked with previous FOI Award winners Tom Burke and John Carne. In 1998 she moved to Davis, Wright, Tremaine, where she specializes in libel, privacy, and communications law, representing many of the major news media outlets in the Bay Area (including the Guardian).
But Carolan is proudest of the work she's done — pro bono — for the Chauncey Bailey Project, which brought together reporters and editors from numerous newspapers and TV stations to help investigate the murder of the former editor of the Oakland Post. She helped the group get access to key documents and fought a gag order that would have limited the ability of the news media to obtain information.
She's handled a lot of big cases, but it's the little stuff that keeps her going. "What I enjoy most," she said, " is my daily interaction with reporters and the really small things that make their jobs a little bit easier." (Tim Redmond)
Investigative reporter Peter Byrne says his award-winning, multipart series "Investor's Club: How the Regents of the University of California Spin Public Funds into Private Profit" wouldn't have been possible without the California Public Records Act.
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