Public Works PUBLIC Information Officer Noelani Whittington 2009 LAVA Tube Award Winner

It’s official… I read the newspaper today at work and low and behold… there it was.

Of course I appreciate Peter for filling me in on the scoops on the corrected Press Release that went out… and of course I appreciate my little birds that drop by now and then with their little tid bits of information.

Here is the article in full from the Hawaii Tribune Herald.  I’m posting it in full because I know that soon enough… people will be charged to read this again…  I hate that model of information… Give it free now… but then charge for it later.

Public Works PIO criticized

By Tribune-Herald
Published: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 9:06 AM HST

The Big Island Press Club has selected Noelani Whittington, public information officer for the Hawaii County Department of Public Works, as the unfavorable recipient of the Big Island Press Club’s Lava Tube Award, given annually to highlight the worst violation of government openness in the state.

The Torch of Light Award, awarded for the best example of open government, goes to Gov. Linda Lingle and the Hawaii State Legislature for passing a law to protect newsgatherers from revealing confidential sources.

Whittington “wins” this year for a memo she wrote in mid-November directing employees how to handle media requests. The memo directed employees not to speak to the media, not to discuss the causes of problems and how to stop the photographing or videotaping of baseyards and road projects.

The since-rescinded memo named several individuals — video producer Dave Corrigan, and bloggers Aaron Stene and Damon Tucker — who are not to receive any information from the department. This is despite the Hawaii County Charter requirement that “all persons shall be treated in a courteous, fair and impartial manner.” Whittington ignored the Charter when she wrote, “They are not journalists. They write what they think.”

“We hope that all the ex-journalists now working in the Kenoi administration will encourage a new standard for openness and access to information in county government,” said BIPC President Peter Serafin. “Today, every presidential press release is available to anyone with a computer and a modem — news professional or not. How can any local government justify being less open?”

In 2008 Reps. Blake Oshiro, Kirk Caldwell, Glenn Wakai, Gene Ward and Tommy Waters introduced a journalism shield bill, which the Legislature passed with no “nay” votes, and which Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law.

The Lava Tube and Torch of Light awards are announced each year on March 16, which is celebrated nationwide as Freedom of Information Day on the birthday of James Madison, the foremost champion of openness in government among the nation’s founding fathers.

The Big Island Press Club was founded in Hilo, in 1967.

The Lava Tube and Torch of Light awards have been presented annually since being established on the occasion of the Club’s 30th anniversary in 1997.

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