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.


Freeport News Network

Broadcast news, stories and entertainment for Stephenson County

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

  • October 20, 2017 at 3:14 am

    It’s really kind of tricky but, if the “articles” were written expressly for the newspaper to get the information out – they do (I believe) belong to the author and copyrighted by the newspaper. I’m not saying it’s a good thing and I may be incorrect – so many ins and outs to copyright laws. https://www.copyright.gov/eco/help-newspapers.html

  • 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 3:25 am

    If the column is written during normal business hours on the public payroll then it should be PUBLIC information. After all, they are doing it on my dime. However, if the other entity is PAYING the person for that column or they are doing it as a private individual (not writing as a PUBLICLY PAID official) then it is subject to their copyright. And if a public official is receiving compensation of any kind from a private entity, that would be newsworthy.

  • October 20, 2017 at 3:36 am

    This is quite simply another case of having to be part of the “IN” crowd in Freeport to be included. And for anyone that thinks I am wrong, believe me, I AM NOT! It is virtually impossible to survive, business-wise, in Freeport if you are shunned and not part of that “IN” crowd. This is one of Freeport’s dirty little secrets that the “powers that be” don’t want talked about! Better watch out!

    • October 20, 2017 at 3:49 am

      Wish I had been warned sooner…. Owning Logan’s has been a trip…. #ImNotOnTheInList

  • October 20, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Why can’t you run it if you cite the source (i.e. reprinted from Journal standard)?

  • October 20, 2017 at 11:10 am

    I agree with Lisa Goodwin I belive it’s a copy write they pay for journal standard that is

  • October 20, 2017 at 11:14 am

    I would be questioning the copyright claim. Yes, I can see specific articles written by staff and specific editorials, but if the material is handed out to the public and not written specifically or by the newspaper then I do not believe in the copyright claim. To me, that’s the same as censorship. Many of us do not get the paper for various reasons. I look forward to reading the various articles provided through this forum, and would hope that the mayor, school superintendent and other agencies and businesses would see the advantage of providing an article or two to your page and forum.

  • 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 1:23 pm

    Trying to get anything out of Freeport from the political point is like trying to pull a wisdom tooth with a pair of tweezers. Same for district 145. All you ever get is the run around.

  • October 20, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    If JS has some sort of right to these written works, why can’t they just write another article that isn’t for the JS? Does JS have rights to every word that comes out of the mayor, the super, or the advertising company?

  • October 20, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Lisa Goodwin hit the nail on the head. The articles are written for the newspaper. They own those columns. A lack of knowledge of journalism is the fuel for this topic. As to why some groups have made the decision not to associate with this social media site…it’s about lack of credibility. Without the knowledge of journalism, what it means, what your responsibilities are, what the laws are, etc. it is just propaganda. A huge platform for you to push your agenda and opinions. It’s too bad too, because it is a cool idea, it just doesn’t have the leadership it needs to be credible.

    • October 20, 2017 at 8:01 pm

      I like the idea too. I thought his mayoral talks were excellent. It was about the best way to get to know the candidates. I thought he did an excellent job with good questions. I thought very well done! It is difficult to tell his articles from his opinion pieces from his advertisements. Sometimes they are all one in the same. That is frustrating and should be addressed. Because he is the only one doing it and there is a learning curve for this new social media news thing (look how google and fb have bungled it during the last election) I give him the benefit of the doubt. I think his above question is a cheeky way to claim public service when that is not what he is.

    • October 20, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      That is a very odd response Danielle. As the executive director of the Freeport Downtown Development Foundation, your organization sends us news and press releases. We just received one yesterday as a matter of fact. Do you not want us to share that with our audience?

      Why just political or education articles? Why only articles from the leaders of our community? Our audience doesn’t posses the knowledge of journalism to what, comprehend an article “written by” our city manager, mayor or superintendent of schools?

      Or you are suggesting that merely because you or others perhaps don’t like the owner, (one person with a cool idea) ‘some taxpayer funded groups’ have chosen to take it out on the rest of the people? You write an article too don’t you. Are you a journalist?

      It would seem the withholding of information would be more questionable than a news outlet desiring to share that information with more people. If these groups would do this, (not yours apparently) to people who promote the city they live in, what would they do or say about someone who does nothing for the city and just lives here, goes to work everyday and pays the taxes that funds some, if not all of the ‘groups’ you refer to? Just forget them huh.

      We would just think that a city leader who already authors an article for the public’s benefit, would want to reach as many people as possible. We would hope petty differences, personal agenda’s, opinions and personal differences wouldn’t prevent someone from receiving that information.

      Appreciate the feedback.

    • October 20, 2017 at 9:29 pm

      If I was a community leader I might think something like, A social media site gets too personal. With a paper/journal you can avoid reading the responses and avoid interacting. On fb someone might tag you and then you might be expected to wade into the weeds where honestly there are many completely uninformed people (no fault of your own or your own either Greg) who on fb expect instant response. Gotta go get my pizza and play music. Will be back.

  • October 20, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    When I owned The iNK newspaper, we arranged for our own columnists separate from the JS and the columns that appeared in the iNK were exclusively written for the iNK. The JS had the same policy and rightfully so. Social media at that time didn’t exist but it does now. I think your solution here is to recruit your own columnists to write exclusively for you and/or share via social media the columns that appear in the JS. The mayor, city manager, and superintendent aren’t the only city and school officials. Plenty of board members there to chose from, as well as members on the county board, park board, etc…There you go, problem solved.

    • October 20, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      That would make sense if we were speaking of citizen contributed columns from the private sector. Yes, of course and a good idea anyway. But are you suggesting that we pay city officials and leaders to write an additional column, in addition to what they write for the JS? If you write an article for the JS, would you really pen a completely different article for this audience? Or are you suggesting we just forget the officials mentioned because they’re currently on contract with the newspaper. Better hurry and get those other city leaders before they too are on contract and can’t share the information? Sounds like a mess.

      Certainly having columnists is a good idea for any news outlet, yes, but we’re not going to pay elected officials to author an article. We really don’t think we would hinder them either (via contract or copyright) from sharing the information they author with other outlets. Why, in the name of Freeport would we even want to do that. We’re not looking for Colonel Sanders secret recipe here and sharing information from any or all city leaders isn’t going to break the ad revenue bank. Sharing a paid newspapers articles doesn’t always work for people either because not everyone subscribes to the paper. The concept essentially forces people to pay for information that really should otherwise be freely available, which really is part of the point. Social media doesn’t change that.

      We completely get exclusivity, copyright and how it works but we would never look at a city leader or elected official and attempt to strike a deal for exclusivity, (unless they wanted it). Grandma’s “quilting for dummies” articles, perhaps but not government related information. We can’t imagine looking at you, the Mayor of the city of Freeport (or the Stephenson County board chairman) and suggesting you not share your “news” with anyone else. (Don’t tell those people)

      Point taken though. Thanks.

    • October 20, 2017 at 10:42 pm

      Today In The Port I’m not sure, but I don’t think public officials are paid for their columns. Most–if not all I’m pretty sure–participate without any compensation. Asking any public official to pen a weekly, monthly, or quarterly article for Today In The Port without pay would certainly be appropriate but would require you to establish the relationship and agreement with the official. Not too uncommon in the world of journalism but does require some effort and footwork.

    • October 23, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      I doubt they would want to be associated with a dog and pony show…

  • 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

  • October 23, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    I believe Today In The Port is a great place for information. Th JS has always been controlled by the powers that be. This is seen by some of the comments and who made them. Keep up the good work Greg.


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