Dale R. Spencer Freedom Talk

Dale R. SpencerThe late Professor Dale R. Spencer, 1925-1988, influenced generations of outstanding journalists and industry leaders, teaching for nearly 40 years at the Missouri School of Journalism and as an editor at the Columbia Missourian. His scholarship, teaching and public service activities focused on the advancement of the free and independent press throughout the world.

The inaugural “Dale R. Spencer Freedom Talk” is dedicated to Professor Spencer.

While a faculty member, Spencer went on to earn master’s and law degrees from the University of Missouri and specialized in communications and libel law, a field in which he attained national prominence. He was a prolific scholar and also active in MU faculty affairs and professional societies. He was a nationally recognized expert on communications and libel law and a prolific scholar.

His former students speak of him in endearing, larger-than-life terms. “Dale's communications law class at Missouri inspired me to apply to law school and to try to carve out a career encompassing both journalism and law, as he so successfully had,” said Ken Paulson, president and CEO, the First Amendment Center and former Editor of USA Today."Thirty-five years on, I'm still grateful for that road map."

His communications law class even helped students who later went on to law school. “Strange as it seems, I was able to grasp media law better when I learned it from Dale Spencer at MU than when I took an almost identical course decades later at Yale Law School,” said Kimberly Mills, Communications Director, Seattle City Attorney's Office.

The Dale R. Spencer Free Press Studies Endowment is managed by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The 2011 FOI Summit keynote address by Gary D. Bass is available below.


Keynote Address by Gary D. Bass

Gary D. BassWhen President Obama welcomed five open government advocates to the Cabinet Room earlier this year, a leader among them and the driving outside force in spearheading the White House meeting was Gary D. Bass, founder and executive director of OMB Watch. Since launching OMB Watch during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, federal agency staff, members of Congress and, yes, White House occupants have been made well aware of Dr. Bass’ focused determination to make government accountability and transparency front burner concerns in all aspects of public policy.

Dr. Bass, who was inducted into the Freedom Forum’s National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame in 2006, is a strong advocate for using newer information technologies to empower citizens and community groups to challenge unchecked institutional power. In 2006, he successfully championed passage of a law that required the government to create a searchable web site providing information about government spending.

He wrote and spoke out forcefully against an increase in government secrecy and an erosion of the public’s right to know in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. He helped form a powerful coalition, OpenTheGovernment.org, which includes journalists and advocates who are pursuing more democracy and less secrecy.

In addition to his role at OMB Watch, Dr. Bass is an affiliated professor at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. He will become chief executive of the Bauman Family Foundation later this year.


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Open Government Hall of Fame Induction: John R. Finnegan Sr.

John R. Finnegan Sr.The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) have selected John R. Finnegan Sr., former executive editor and assistant publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, for their joint Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame award for 2011.

Finnegan is past president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association and of the Newspaper Guild of the Twin Cities, and was chairman emeritus of the Minnesota News Council.  He is currently and president of the Minnesota Joint Media Committee.

The Open Government Hall of Fame is a joint venture by SPJ and NFOIC. It was developed by leaders in both organizations as a way to recognize long-term contributions of individuals to open government in their respective states.

Induction into the Open Government Hall of Fame recognizes “long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of information about state and local government that is vital to the public in a democracy.” The intent is to recognize individuals—living or dead—whose lifetime commitment to citizen access, open government and freedom of information has left a significant legacy at the state and local level.