Did you know ICOG has a speaker’s bureau? Our board members and affiliated experts are ready, willing and able to talk to your organization about the ins and outs of open government. Recently, ICOG interim president Keith Robinson and board member Tony Fargo did duty on the speaker’s circuit.

Fargo, an assistant professor at Indiana University’s School of Journalism, was actually wearing his academic cap in his recent appearance at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference in Washington, D.C. But we thought we’d mention it because it shows you the depth of expertise available through ICOG.

Fargo served as moderator of a panel – actually three panels – at last month’s conference. The topic – The Future of Media Law and Policy. Momentous changes are afoot in media law these days, and Fargo is keeping close tabs on them. As the former head of the AEJMC’s Law and Policy Division, he moderated three panels on telecommunications policy, newsgathering and commercial speech and intellectual property. Panelists included Richard E. Wiley, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; and media attorney Charles D. Tobin. The panels were carried on C-SPAN.

Also last month, Robinson spoke with representatives from Belize, Cameroon, Cyprus, Fiji, Lebanon, Malawi and Sierra Leone who were on a tour of the states to learn about ethical standards in government and business.

Robinson met with the group at the International Center of Indianapolis and spoke about transparency and accountability in government, explaining how organizations such as ICOG monitor government agencies to ensure they abide by the laws involving the public’s access to meetings and records—a task that he said requires constant vigilance.

Members of the international delegation shared stories of failed attempts in their countries to gain access to government information and Robinson said the American public often faces the same obstacles.

The visitors reacted with surprise when Robinson, responding to a question, told them that ICOG and similar organizations throughout the country consist entirely or substantially of volunteers. Although some organizations that serve as government “watchdogs” have paid staff members, he said most typically rely on citizen volunteers and those in the media who share a passion for working to keep government business open to the public.

Robinson also detailed the role of the Indiana Public Access Counselor, a state employee who mediates complaints from the public about access issues involving government agencies. He added that if an opinion from the access counselor does not settle a dispute, the person who filed the complaint would have to take the matter to court for a ruling.

Robinson, chief of bureau of The Associated Press in Indianapolis, was asked to explain the AP’s role in helping to keep government accountable. He explained that AP reporters, as well as those in other news organizations nationwide, continually press government agencies for public information and challenge them whey they are denied.

Do you have a meeting coming up that could benefit from an ICOG speaker? Contact us by clicking on Speaker’s Bureau above.