School braves Hurricane Irma aftermath to hold digital literacy colloquium

By CIARA HODGES

KENNESAW, Ga. – Kennesaw State University’s School of Communication braved the aftermath of Hurricane Irma September 14 to organize a well-attended colloquium on digital literacy at the Social Science building.

The colloquium offered several breakout sessions to students and professors to learn some of the newest advances in digital literacy and their intersection with professional journalism. The concurrent sessions included “Adobe Spark- What can you create?,” “The News Process: A digital tsunami,” “Digital Careers: Atlanta Food Bloggers,” “Digital and the Professions,” and “The Changing Media Management Landscape.” Each of the sessions was offered twice and separated into time slots.

“Digital Careers: Atlanta Food Bloggers” had one of the biggest turnouts during its first session. The panelists included Megan Roth and Kathleen Cone of Hungry Girls Do it Better, Morgan Bryant of Eat Here ATL and Olivia Tuttle from Melissa Libby & Associates. Dr. Erin Ryan, associate professor of communication in the Media and Entertainment Studies program of the school, served as the moderator for this session.

 

atl food bloggers
The panelists from left to right: Olivia Tuttle, Morgan Bryant, Megan Roth and Kathleen Cone. Photo by Ciara Hodges

“The food scene in Atlanta, is forever changing,” Bryant said. “That’s why I wanted to create Eat Here ATL, to have a space that had everything there. From places to hangout and places to eat.”

This is the fifth year the colloquium has been held. Industry experts also taught students about innovation in classrooms to help students be better prepared in the working world.

“I never thought we would have a colloquium that was impacted by Hurricane Irma,” said Dr. Barbara Gainey, director of the School of Communication and Media. “With recent events happening with hurricane season, the school of communication thought digital literacy was a hot topic.”

She also pointed out that the Georgia Board of Regents recently approved the Organizational and Professional Communication program as a new stand-alone major effective fall 2018.

Many professors from the school of communication were there to help students network with the panelists.

“They’re working on promoting digital literacy,” said Skyler Lydick, an undeclared sophomore who said she enjoyed being able to interact with both students and professionals.

Dr. Gainey said the Georgia News Lab will now be housed at Kennesaw State University, and that scores for the new entrance exam to the School of Communication and Media have been raised to 78 percent.

 

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Government Meetings and Records Are Open

By JOSEPH PIEPER

KENNESAW, Ga. — It’s up to elected officials to prove they can meet in secret legally, not for the public to prove those meetings are illegal, Cobb County citizens were told at a Government Transparency Workshop at Kennesaw State University.

“Everything is open unless there is an exception,” said Jim Zachery, editor of the Valdosta Daily Times. “So, the presumption in Georgia law is that it’s always open. The strong public policy of the state of Georgia is open government.

“So that there has to be an exception that allows them to go back there behind closed doors, there has to be an exception that allows them to have those executive sessions and they have to be able to cite the legal exception. You don’t have to prove that something should be open, they have to prove that it can be closed.”

Zachery, a member of the board for the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, and fellow board member Ken Foskett, investigations editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, conducted the workshop Monday night at KSU. It was sponsored by the foundation and KSU’s campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

They spoke about how to use Georgia’s open meetings and open record laws to learn what is happening inside your local and state governments. They explained how to: access public records for information on operations, attend public meetings where elected officials make decisions that affect the public and challenge public officials when they don’t comply with open government laws.

Zachery said not everyone is aware that the burden of proof is on the government to show that meetings should be closed or records denied.  In fact, he added, Georgia is one of the few states in the United States that imposes a real penalty for violating the open government acts.

“In most states the penalty for violating the act is exactly like this [makes shame on you finger gesture],” Zachery said. “In Georgia first violation can cost you $1,000, the second violation in the same twelve-month period can cost you $25,000 as can subsequent violations and they can be concurrent.”

Ken and Jim
Ken Foskett, left, and Jim Zachery, right, are conducting a government transparency workshop at Kennesaw State University. (Photo by Joseph Pieper)

And there are only a few exceptions that the government can make to deny public access to a meeting or minutes.

“There are largely three exceptions. There a few more exceptions codified throughout the law, but we usually sort of broad stroke that by saying that it’s personnel, litigation and real estate,” Zachery said. “It’s important that you know that the law is much more specific than those three things.

“So that not all personnel (issues) can be talked about in executive session, not all things that are called litigation can be talked about in executive session and not all real estate can be talked about in executive session.”

This means the government can only use these three areas as exceptions if it does not pertain to public policy. If it involves public policy then that means it’s the public’s business and it is supposed to be open to them.

“Records are public because they belong to you, because government officials are doing your business,” Foskett said. “So, what they put in documents, what they keep in their cabinet files belongs equally to you as it does to them.”

Zachery said that some of the best advice he could give when dealing with record custodians and elected officials is to be nice and reasonable.

“You don’t need to go in pounding on desk and demanding and saying the word pursuant,” Zachary said. “Saying somebody’s name, being polite—saying please, saying thank you.

“And you know what all record custodians have in common and all elected officials have in common? They’re human beings and you treat them bad and they are going to wrestle. When they could make it available to you like that, they are going to take that three days, just because you were not a nice person.”

 

Georgia legislation allows pharmacists to carry overdose medication

By COURTNEY MAZZA

The 2017-2018 legislative session in Georgia will include a legislation from Georgia Overdose Prevention, or GOP, which would allow pharmacists to carry and dispense the overdose prevention medication, Naloxone, to people without a prescription.

In 2014, Georgia amended state laws with the passing of Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law and Expanded Naloxone Access Law, providing immunity, or protection from arrest, to those who seek medical assistance for themselves, or another person, who is experiencing a drug or alcohol related overdose. The bill also protects minors seeking medical attention for certain underage drinking offenses.

Not only does the law provide immunity for possession of certain drugs, probation and parole violations, drug paraphernalia and alcohol consumption, but the law also increases access to the treatment for opioid overdose, Naloxone. The GOP created and testified for the success of this law.

“After our law passed, we focused our efforts on educating Georgians about our law and the protection it provides, and on distributing Naloxone rescue kits and training to anyone at high risk of opioid overdose,” said Laurie Fugitt, co-founder of Georgia Overdose Prevention.

461 lives were saved by the GOP and Association of Human Resource Management, or AHRM, when kits were administered by community members, including relatives, friends and former drug abusers. These kits allow more time for a victim to receive proper medical attention to prevent death from an overdose.

The Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, Frank Rotondo, has been a long supporter of Naloxone programs for law enforcement, testifying his support of the 911 Medical Amnesty and Expanded Naloxone Access Law, and distributing information to all

Georgia police chiefs, encouraging the Naloxone programs.

“The support of these programs is a no-brainer from my point of view,” Rotondo said. “A very clear example was a police lieutenant whose daughter died of an overdose, and she couldn’t assist her daughter. Friends left her daughter on the side of the road after partying. She died when she could have been saved.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, since 1999 sales of prescription opioid drugs have increased, and deaths involving these drugs has quadrupled. The abuse of heroin in young adults ages 18-25 has more than doubled in the past decade, with 45 percent of heroin abusers also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers. In 2013, more than 8,200 people died of a heroin-related overdose.

According to a graph from Georgiaoverdose.com, people of all ages and ethnicities are dying in Georgia due to the abuse of opioid drugs. The lack of knowledge on medical amnesty laws and the availability of Naloxone are common reasons.

mapGeorgia Overdose Deaths from 2010-2015 (Photo courtesy of Georgriaoverdose.com)

University police departments across Georgia have also taken part in establishing Naloxone programs. As of 2016, 12 Georgia colleges’ law departments are equipped with Naloxone, including the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University.

In 2017, Georgia State University will also begin carrying Naloxone.

nalaxoneNaloxone is administered by injection (Photo courtesy of Google Images)

According to Lieutenant Ben Dickens, the Athens Clarke County Police Department, or  ACCPD, used Naloxone eight times in the past year, with seven successful reversals.

“We only had a small number of kits to officers during this last year,” Dickens said. “We are now pushing it out to all patrol officers and expect the usage rate to go up.”

According to the GOD, Cobb County, Fulton County and Gwinnett County, are all experiencing the highest drug overdose rates in Georgia. Gwinnett County, one of the 57 Georgia law enforcement departments carrying Naloxone, experienced 406 overdose deaths between 2010 and 2015, while Fulton County has experienced 696 known overdose deaths during those same years.

Earlier this year, at the urging of District Attorney Paul Howard and the Fulton County Heroin Task Force, the Fulton County commissioners voted unanimously to allocate $49,000 to fund Naloxone for first respondents.

Rotondo believes that every law enforcement agency should carry Naloxone, but city and county budgets limit these resources.

“It is probably one of the simplest decisions I had to make, to say that’s a very good bill, all law enforcement agencies should have it, it’s reasonably priced,” Rotondo said. “Why all don’t have it is a question of money, because the reality of it is that all law enforcement agents feel the same way I do. It’s better to save people.”

KSU guest speaker discusses difficulties overcoming gag order

By LAUREN LEATHERS

KENNESAW, Ga. – Lesli N.Gaither, a lawyer who represents several media platforms, met with Kennesaw State University students this week to present information on a recent gag order, as well as to give advice to future journalists going into the field.

Gaither, an attorney with Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, represented the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB-TV and the Associated Press in successfully challenging a gag order issued last week in South Georgia. She spoke to Dr. Carolyn Carlson’s Media Law class this week.

Lesli

Lesli Gaither. (Photo credit: LinkedIn.com)

Judge issues gag order

The gag order was issued in the highly publicized death of schoolteacher Tara Grinstead, who went missing from Ocilla, Georgia, in 2005. Last month, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced the arrest of Ryan Alexander Duke in connection with her disappearance and death.

The defense attorney came forward with a stack of articles asking the judge to issue a restraining order stopping everyone involved in the case from talking to the media.

“They said this was getting out of control and we’re a small town and we don’t have a large jury pool,” said Gaither.

As a result, a gag order  was put into place almost immediately.

“Gag orders in Georgia are fairly rare, but this one came out in a fairly rare circumstance,” said Gaither.

Gaither said she feels the GBI, believing it had solved a 12-year-old cold case, wanted people to know about the case to see that its agents were doing their job well.

“It became a big deal,” said Gaither. “I think the GBI kind of wanted to talk about it.”

Difficulties arise obtaining  gag order

When Gaither requested the motion of the gag order from the clerk’s office she said she was denied. She requested any information the clerk’s office could give her in relation to the case and was, again, denied.

“This is, in my career, the first time I have challenged a motion that I have not read, and gone to argue a motion I have not read,” said Gaither.

Gaither said she told the judge upfront that she had not read the motion prior to challenging the gag order.

“It’s actually the high profiles that get the publicity,” said Gaither. “That doesn’t mean you should shut it down. It just means that’s what people are interested in and what they want to see. When things are gagged we only have rumors to go by.”

Gaither was able to receive  the judge’s gag order from a reporter. It is unknown how the reporter obtained the motion.

Gaither argued in a motion last week that the gag order was too vague and covered too many people. She presented a number of cases in her argument, arguing that the restraints should be narrowed significantly.

Gaither said the judge issued a modified order last Friday as a result of her arguments, and said she has no intentions to appeal.

“In our opinion, it’s still pretty wrong,” said Gaither.

Students react to  challenge of fighting  gag orders

One student in the class asked how it felt to challenge a motion without reading it prior.

In response, Gaither said that she openly admitted to courts that she had not read the motion prior and was unable to obtain a copy of the motion from the clerk’s office.

“It was not a big deal, but it was definitely different” said Gaither.

Senior journalism major Andrew Connard said he respects Gaither for the way she carries herself while speaking of her profession.

The biggest thing that stuck with me was that, as a journalist, I need to always be aware of, and stand up for, my rights,” said Connard.

Lesli speaking

Lesli Gaither speaking to a media law class. (Photo credit: Lauren Leathers)

Gaither said connecting a person who is unaffiliated with a case has become a common mistake that leads to libel lawsuits against the media.

“It is so easy to grab a piece of information, but can be very difficult to verify that your information is really about the same person,” said Gaither.

Gaither said that journalists have to be very careful when using social media to get pictures or additional information about someone, because there are often many people with the same name.

Gaither said her number one piece of advice for journalists going into the field is to be aware that myth identification has become the biggest liability issue for newsrooms.

Media litigation and counseling has become the focus of Gaither’s practice, along with complex commercial litigation.

She has been recognized on multiple occasions from 2011 to 2013 as a Georgia “Rising Star” in the area of First Amendment and Media and Advertising Law. In 2014 to 2016, she was, again, recognized by Super Lawyers magazine in the area of Media and Advertising Law.