Thursday, January 13, 2005

Journalists and the general public now have at their fingertips hundreds of pages of documents to learn how to get access to government documents. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced today that a new website is now available to help everyone use and understand GRAMA-the Government Records Access and Management Act.

"Government works best when the public's business is conducted in public. This web page puts together some of the best resources available to help citizens find the information they need," says Shurtleff.

Credit Salt Lake Tribune reporter Dan Harrie for getting the website started. Harrie teaches a reporting course at the University of Utah and during one class he told aspiring journalists to go to the Attorney General's website for GRAMA request forms. The only trouble is the A.G. website didn't have any forms-until now.

The new website has forms and two manuals that have never been available on the Internet---including a 44-page GRAMA handbook produced by the Utah Attorney General's Office.

"The original drafters of this manual helped write GRAMA. It is a tremendous resource. Among other things, it has step-by-step instructions for making and responding to GRAMA requests. Understanding and applying the Act correctly is essential for helping the public understand how their tax dollars are used," says Mark Burns, the assistant attorney general who provides counsel to the State Records Committee and Burns uses the handbook to train others on GRAMA.

The other manual is the 106-page Utah Media Handbook created by the Society of Professional Journalists. The handbook contains chapters on Utah media law, open meetings, journalistic ethics and offers beginning-to-end explanations of a criminal prosecution and a civil lawsuit.

"The Utah Media Handbook was a labor of love for many people who believe that strengthening the mutual understanding between the press and the bar in Utah will improve both journalism and the administration of law," says Linda Petersen, President of the Utah Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and Editor for The Valley Journals.

"An informed public is the bedrock of our democracy," says Salt Lake media law attorney Jeffrey Hunt, a co-editor of the Media Law Handbook. "The Utah Media Law Handbook compiles Utah's sunshine laws and explains them in a way that is accessible to the public, the press and the bar."

The site also includes links to the entire GRAMA law, the State Archives and the State Records Committee. The Attorney General's GRAMA website can be found at

11:31:03 AM