These sections are meant to give you a useful overview of open meetings laws in the states where Documenters operates. This section is a summary and may not include every detail or exception to the laws and court rulings described below. If you run into confusing cases while on assignment we recommend you contact the Documenters Field Coordinator immediately. We have also listed some additional resources at the bottom of this section if you want to learn more about your rights in the field.
- Your right to record public meetings is protected by under the Open Meetings Act, but be sure to familiarize yourself with (and comply with) the relevant media policies for the public media you are assigned to.
- Be careful not to record private conversations where people may think they are speaking privately, and display your recording device prominently to avoid being “surreptitious.”
- There are some cases in each state’s OMA when a meeting may be closed. If you are denied entry or asked to leave all or part of a meeting you should comply, but ask for an explanation and record it in your notes.
- To prove defamation the accuser must show that the defendant published a statement about the plaintiff to a third party that was false, unprivileged, and damaged the plaintiff’s reputation. For public figures, the accuser must also show that the defendant knew the statement was false, or didn’t care if it was true or false.
- As long as you are covering an official proceeding and your report is substantially accurate, your published notes are covered under the Fair Report Privilege and should be protected from defamation claims. Be careful not to omit any important information in your notes in order to ensure that they meet the standards of the Fair Report Privilege.
The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has published several relevant legal guides
- The Digital Media Law Project has published a summary of libel protections under the Fair Report Privilege
- The full text of the Michigan Open Meetings Act is here, and a guide to the act from the Michigan Attorney General’s office is here.
- The full text of the Illinois Open Meetings act is here, and the Illinois Attorney General’s office has published a guide to the Illinois Open Meetings Act here.