Missouri attorney general seeks journalism school records

Sep 2, 2022, 2:09 PM | Updated: 3:12 pm
FILE - Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt listens to an at...

FILE - Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt listens to an attendee at the Governor's Ham Breakfast at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Mo., Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. Schmitt has filed an open records request seeking correspondence between two journalism professors connected to the University of Missouri and the executive director of a fact-checking group. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed an open records request seeking correspondence between two journalism professors connected to the University of Missouri and the executive director of a fact-checking group.

In a move that appears to be unprecedented in Missouri, Schmitt, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, filed a request in June asking for three years of emails sent and received by the professors while they worked at the Columbia Missourian.

Most correspondence generated at private media firms is not subject to the state’s open records law, but the Missourian could be because it is attached to the University of Missouri, which is a public entity.

The Missourian is not overseen by university officials, but most of its staff are students who are working for credits toward a journalism degree. The professional editors work as university faculty members.

David Kurpius, dean of the Missouri School of Journalism, said the school has hired outside legal counsel to determine which emails could be released to the attorney general. Some records, such as those that identify students’ personal information, are protected by federal law.

Jean Maneke, an attorney with the Missouri Press Association, said the request puts the university in “unchartered territory” because most public institutions do not have journalists attached. She was unaware of any similar requests in the past.

“There’s no clear instructions for what they should do when faced with these kind of parameters,” Maneke said.

The request was first reported by the Missourian, which discovered it after filing an unrelated open records request.

Schmitt’s spokesman, Chris Nuelle, said in a statement that the attorney general is “simply trying to get to the bottom of the fact checking process.” He declined to answer further questions.

Schmitt previously used open-records laws to seek copies of handouts, emails and other resources that address race from school districts as part of a push targeting “critical race theory.” He also opened a “transparency portal” to allow parents to see his efforts.

In the latest request, Schmitt is seeking any email correspondence starting June 15, 2018, sent to or from Mike Jenner, Tom Warhover, who previously worked with the Missourian, and Aaron Sharockman, the executive director of PolitiFact.

Warhover, an associate professor at the university, was executive editor at the Missourian for 16 years before resigning in 2017. Jenner, board member of the Missourian Publishing Association, a nonprofit that governs the Missourian, succeeded Warhover for about two years.

Warhover noted the fact-checking course involving PolitiFact hasn’t been offered for about 1 1/2 years. He did not see a similar request during his years at the Missourian.

“My initial and continuing reaction is one of confusion,” Warhover said. “What the attorney general would want with this is befuddling.”

Sharockman told The Missourian in an email statement that Politifact doesn’t use off-the-record information and publishes a list of sources with each story.

“Our methods and reporting are transparent, and we’d be happy to sit down with the attorney general at any time to discuss our work, or his ideas for continued accountability journalism,” he said.

Maneke noted the attorney general’s office is one of the primary entities that advises citizens and enforces the state’s Sunshine Law. In this case, Schmitt appears to be using the law as a “battering ram” against the university and journalists who are housed at the university, she said.

“It creates a real conflict in interest in what the attorney general is doing and how citizens view the office of attorney general as a Sunshine Law advocate,” she said.

Kurpius said the school will comply with whatever determination its legal team makes about which records should be released. He noted that the journalism school often uses the Freedom of Information Act and strongly supports open records laws.

“We also obviously believe in the process of journalism,” Kurpius said. “Fact checking, making sure we get things right is important in having the trust of the public we serve.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

US to require more rest between shifts for flight attendants

Airlines will be required to give flight attendants at least 10 hours off duty between shifts, one more hour than currently, under a rule announced Tuesday by the Federal Aviation Administration. Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said that the extra hour of rest would contribute to safety. Congress directed the FAA in 2018 to increase […]
8 hours ago
Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom President Petro Kotin speaks during an interview with Th...
Associated Press

The AP Interview: Ukraine aims to restart occupied reactors

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine is considering restarting Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which is occupied by Russian troops, to ensure its safety just weeks after fears of a radiation disaster prompted its shutdown, the facility operator’s head said Tuesday. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has emerged as one of the most worrying flashpoints in Russia’s […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Florida deputy, one of department’s youngest, fatally shot

POLK CITY, Fla. (AP) — A 21-year deputy was fatally shot Tuesday while serving a warrant in central Florida, authorities said. The deputy was shot after entering a trailer in the early morning with three other deputies to serve a warrant on a suspect wanted for failing to appear on a felony drug charge, said […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, attends the opening of the Tesla factory Berlin Brandenburg in Gruenhe...
Associated Press

Musk’s plan to end Russian war infuriates Ukraine on Twitter

Elon Musk has gotten into a Twitter tussle with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after the tech billionaire floated a divisive proposal to end Russia’s invasion. The Tesla CEO, soon facing a court fight over his attempt to abandon a $44 billion offer to buy Twitter, argued in a tweet Monday that to reach peace Russia […]
8 hours ago
Rabbi Yitzchok Minkowicz supervises the pantry inside the Chabad Lubavitch of Southwest Florida, Mo...
Associated Press

Amid Ian’s wounds, Jews see healing, renewal in Yom Kippur

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Even though a destructive hurricane tore through his community just days earlier, nothing was going to stop Rabbi Yitzchok Minkowicz from holding prayer services Tuesday night for the start of the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Throughout a southwest Florida devastated by Hurricane Ian, Jews planned to hold worship […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Sheryl Sandberg steps into abortion fight with ACLU donation

Sheryl Sandberg opened her next chapter as a full-time philanthropist Tuesday with a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union to fight state abortion bans across the country. Sandberg, who officially left her position as Facebook’s parent company Meta’s chief operating officer last week after 14 years, donated $3 million to the ACLU Ruth Bader […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Missouri attorney general seeks journalism school records