A Taxpayer’s Right To Information or a Privately Owned Newspaper’s Copyright? You Decide

Freeport, Illinois — As most of you know Freeport News Network has been around for a little over two years now, and since that time we have shared a wide variety of local and regional news with all of you. Not only have we wanted to show the brighter side of Freeport and the area around us, we wanted you to be informed.

It’s why we’ve done numerous special segments with city leaders, why we’ve covered local elections, it’s why we sat at city council meetings and it’s why we interviewed candidates running for local office.

No one hired us to do so, no one made us, we just felt that you, the citizens of Freeport and our viewers had a right to know. We felt that you deserved the information that you might not get anywhere else.

Over the past couple years we’ve reached out to numerous taxpayer funded organizations and offered them our platform (for free) to share their public information on.

For example, last year we requested that the FSD 145 Superintendent share his monthly column with our viewers.

Freeport’s Superintendent of schools writes from his position on a variety of school, student, procedure, policy and operating topics. We thought it would be valuable information to our viewers.

Additionally a few months ago we requested that Freeport City Manager Lowell Crow, and Freeport Mayor Jodi Miller share their monthly column with our viewers.

Similar to the school Superintendent, they too pen an article about topics valuable to the citizens of our city.  We also offered to both city manager Crow and Mayor Miller a monthly or bi-weekly segment similar to what we used to do with former Mayor Jim Gitz.

In case you haven’t noticed however, we never air these press releases or articles from our school Superintendent or from Freeport’s City Manager or Mayor.

We never receive them.

Last year when we requested that the FSD 145 Superintendent share his column with our viewers, we were told by the school’s marketing and public relations person that they’d have to check with the Journal Standard.

While they did acknowledge that the article was the Superintendent’s, they said they would have to check with the newspaper before they could approve it.

We never heard back.

Likewise, we recently received a similar response from Mayor Jodi Miller when we asked again to air her article.

Except Mayor Miller said, “The journal standard says they have the copyright so to send it to you is not something I can do”.

Copyright? Can’t share the information because the Journal Standard won’t let you?


Since when does a newspaper control the news you, the author writes? Since when does a news outlet get to decide what information the public can have and what information it can’t have?

Since when does a newspaper get to tell elected officials what they can or can’t do with public information they presumably author themselves?

Of all the news in the entire city of Freeport it’s the taxpayer funded organizations that can’t share their information with other citizens of the community, and that’s according to the newspaper?

But they’re not the only ones.

Freeport All In doesn’t share their releases or columns with our audience either.  In fact, months ago we received a press release issued by Freeport All In from someone asking to be left anonymous.

They apparently didn’t want anyone to know that they sent the news release to us, but apparently did feel it important enough to have us share the release with all of you.

While we realize this may sound like an attempt to make the individuals or places mentioned above look bad, it isn’t at all.

Many, if not all of these articles, releases or news items are released solely for the public’s benefit and are released from a public, taxpayer funded platform.

Can a privately owned newspaper tell our elected leaders who it can or can’t share their own information with? If so, why would any elected official ever agree to that?

To make matters worse, none of these articles, (or links to them) are available on the city’s website either.  In fact, the same goes for the Freeport Downtown Development website, the Freeport All In website or the Stephenson County visitors center website.

None of the above mentioned columns or public articles are available on any of their websites. (They probably will be now though.)

To confuse things even more, we were recently sent a video that was put out by Freeport All In. In the video it talks about answering the question “what is Freeport All In” and in the video it says the following;

“Every year over 1 million cars drive by Freeport. Wouldn’t it be great if all those people and many more that live around us knew what we know of Freeport? That Freeport is a city that is reinventing itself? What if someone took the time to tell them.”

What if someone took the time to tell them, it says.

Yet it appears Freeport All In, the newspaper and perhaps even city government doesn’t really mean “all in”. It appears that the word “all” actually means “some” or “all”, except for “those people” more accurately.

In other words, wouldn’t it be great if all those people and many more that live around us knew what we know of Freeport, (but we didn’t actually mean telling you people).

You should also know that we are not “out to get” the newspaper. Like millions of others, we don’t even look at the newspaper to be quite frank, this isn’t about competition to us and we don’t look for other contributors who do write in the paper and call them in an attempt to get them to write for us. We don’t play any of those games at all.

This is public information.

This isn’t grandma’s monthly column on “quilting for dummies”. This is our city government, our school system and it’s the city hailed marketing company all of which receive (or have received) taxpayer money.  It is those organizations who can’t (or won’t) freely share their information with you, the public.

This is also public information that is not readily available to the general public anywhere else. Instead, it’s information that appears is being held hostage by a local newspaper. A newspaper that seems to feel you have no right to the information, except through them.

This isn’t even Freeport’s most breaking, sought after news either. It’s not like when the Mayor or city manager speak, or when the Superintendent of schools speak their columns go viral, (like say a shooting or a new business opening up).

There’s no edge gained in withholding this public information.

Or is it possible that the Mayor, City Manager, Freeport All In or the Superintendent don’t actually write their own columns?

Why hold “public information” private?

So if you’ve ever wondered why we don’t have columns from the school system or columns from city alderman, city manager or the Mayor of the city of Freeport, it isn’t because we don’t want you to have that information.  We receive a lot of news from area businesses and event planners all throughout the city. We also encourage people to share articles, stories, press releases or columns with us.

Frankly, we just don’t understand why entities such as the city, the school or the city endorsed marketing company wouldn’t want to share their information with so many others.

It’s disturbing and very alarming to us and it just doesn’t make any sense to leave people out in a community, when you’re mission is to “include everyone” and reach more people.

Should a taxpayer funded organization only share it’s public columns, press releases and news with only one news outlet and deny others who would like to share their information as well? Should a local newspaper have the authority to tell a city government who it can and can’t share public information with?

We’d like to know what you think about this.


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3 thoughts on “A Taxpayer’s Right To Information or a Privately Owned Newspaper’s Copyright? You Decide

  • October 19, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    The JS has a copyright on what they place in their paper; however, they do not have a copyright on what any entity (public or private) disseminates to them. For example: I wrote a weekly column for five years. Said column appeared in the JS and, often, 500 other periodicals. I own the copyright to what I wrote. Each publication owned/owns the copyright to my articles as they appeared in their publications. In other words, no one could use, print, or copy my work without my permission. No one could copy, print, or use the column as it appeared in the JS, as the JS owned that version of my work, just like all the other publishers owned their versions of my work, but, none of them “owned” the work itself, as I never surrendered or transferred my copyright.

    All of that said, the JS took a picture of me, which they used with my column. They took the picture – they own that picture – copyright. Even though it was of me, I could not use the picture without the JS permission.

    Bottom line: You’re being fed nonsense, unless the city and school district have a written contract to only distribute press releases to the JS, which I sincerely doubt they have.

  • October 20, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Newspaper is trying to control who gets the information and the slant they put on it. The paper is telling the contributors that we control you and if you defy us we will punish you. The quality of the Journel Standard has continued to decline with the content being controlled not by local reporters and editors but by people without any skin in Freeport.

  • October 20, 2017 at 11:56 am

    I do not have a problem sharing my articles with you and I can honestly say I do not remember your request. I pen everyone of my articles and proud of the information I provide. Please forward your e-mail and I will share them with you.

    Lowell Crow
    City Manager


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