ONA Weekly #265

By on July 3, 2019

Urging lawmakers to protect FOIA

On June 24, the Supreme Court issued a disappointing decision in the case of Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader, broadening the scope of information that can be shielded from disclosure by government contractors as “confidential” under Exemption 4 of FOIA. The Court held that government contractors need not show that disclosure of the information would result in “competitive harm,” as required by an earlier appellate court precedent. Instead, they need only show that the information is “customarily and actually treated as private by its owner and provided to the government under an assurance of privacy.” 

As Justice Breyer pointed out in his dissent, the elimination of any requirement to show harm from disclosure would permit companies and the government to deem information “confidential” without any justification, undermining the entire purpose of FOIA:

For the majority, a business holding information as private and submitting it under an assurance of privacy is enough to deprive the public of access. But a tool used to probe the relationship between government and business should not be unavailable whenever government and business wish it so. And given the temptation, common across the public and private sectors, to regard as secret all information that need not be disclosed, I fear the majority’s reading will deprive the public of information for reasons no better than convenience, skittishness, or bureaucratic inertia. 

ONA had joined other media organizations and press freedom groups in an amicus brief earlier this year, urging the Court to affirm the lower court’s decision in favor of the Argus Leader. Following the decision, ONA joined with other members of the News Media for Open Government Coalition in a public statement expressing concern with the decision and urging a legislative fix to Exemption 4.

Welcome, Adam Martin!

Allow us to introduce you to our newest team member, Adam Martin! Adam joins ONA as the Meeting Manager. He will focus on the logistical planning and execution of a variety of events, including the annual conference, Women’s Leadership Accelerator and Insights. His mission is make sure all attendees have a positive and unforgettable experience. Learn more about Adam.

Event alert: Explore immersive journalism

The Journalism 360 Unconference is back for its second year in New York City, July 23. Join this interactive gathering of creators, newsroom leaders and technologists to explore the latest applications of 360 video and augmented, virtual and mixed reality for news. You will get to connect with industry leaders, share your ideas and experience demos from the 2018 Journalism 360 Challenge winners. Register now.

Digital journalism training for HBCU students

Applications for the 2019 HBCU Digital Media Fellowship are due July 8, 11:59 PDT. With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the fellowship provides an expenses-paid trip to ONA19, complimentary ONA membership for one year and hands-on digital training with expert mentors as part of the ONA19 Student Newsroom and Innovation Lab. Apply now.

From the archives: Cat memes and audience engagement

We are sharing resources from the ONA archives throughout 2019, as we celebrate 20 years of innovation and leadership in digital journalism.

Ben Huh, founder and former CEO of Cheezburger, inspired attendees at ONA11 with three lessons from building a media empire that embraced humor and internet culture. His talk reflects on the relationship between journalists and their audiences, how technology builds new cultures and the importance of proximity and context in storytelling. He concludes with a thoughtful question about paradigms and innovation: If journalism were invented today, how would you deliver the news?

Upcoming events

ONA Local groups regularly host events for digital journalists all over the world. Find a group near you or learn how to start a new one.


ONA’s Career Center is an excellent resource for jobs in digital journalism. Recent postings include:

On our radar


Karolle Rabarison

Karolle Rabarison is ONA's Director of Communications. She collaborates across the team to connect the journalism community to emerging tech and leadership training, networking, industry trends, and career development resources.