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WHITE NOISE

by YES! Staff

The killing floor

The Greensboro News & Record announced another 25 layoffs last week, six of them newsroom positions, in its second job-shedding initiative of the year. Forty employees took buyouts in January, among them Lex Alexander, who had been with the paper for more than 20 years. This latest move pulled our friend Louis Bekoe from the ranks of the N&R. Bekoe, who had been with the paper more than 10 years, said goodbye via Facebook in a post entitled, “Damn That Was Fun.” His account sums it up as best as any: “I loved knowing that on any given night, I could get a ‘field promotion.’ I was an editorial assistant. I could be upgraded to cops reporter, rim (second editor) or page designer. Trial by fire.” We’re gonna miss throwing elbows with you on the party scene, Bekoe, trying to land that perfect shot. And we’re gonna miss the laughs we always had afterward. See you on the road, pal. The blog Papercuts estimates that so far this year, more than 8,249 US journalism jobs have been lost through layoffs and buyouts, putting us on pace to beat last year’s total of 15,970. — BC

Time Warner backs off

Following a flare of virtual activism, extensive news reporting and a whole slew of pissed-off internet junkies demonstrating in real time outside the company’s Greensboro headquarters, Time Warner postponed its plan to measure high-speed internet accounts and charge according to usage. — BC

Fewer requests, fewer responses, more denials

The last Congress passed a law reforming the Freedom of Information Act and the last president, trying to head off that law, issued an executive order directing agencies to be more customer friendly, according to a report compiled by Pete Weitzel for the Sunshine in Government Initiative released April 13. Despite both actions, getting public records from the federal government remains a slow and frequently unsatisfying process, A review by the Sunshine in Government Initiative of just-reported performance data by 25 departments and agencies shows that about one-third of the requests remain backlogged despite fewer people apparently filing, that agencies continue to miss the statutory response deadline in a majority of cases and that agencies said they rejected the highest percentage of requests since performance reporting began, according to the report. The data also shows that, regardless of the mandate to improve service, departments and agencies cut FOIA personnel. The reports for fiscal year 2008 followed new guidelines in the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National (OPEN) Government Act that require more precise and useful data. The result is new information that better spotlights the problems citizens face in getting information from the government. Under the new reporting guidelines, agencies also stopped treating Privacy Act requests as FOIA requests and including them in the numbers they presented in their annual FOIA performance reports. That change has an impact on some of the comparisons in this report, but there is no way of knowing the extent of that impact since agencies did not update previous reports. — KTB

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