Know Your Rights: Recording a Public Meeting

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Wed, October 9 2013 at 6:59 PM, Updated: Thu, October 10 2013 at 12:01 AM

It's an issue that's come up time and time again.

On Tuesday night our camera was banned from a public Jackson County School District 9 meeting where people were discussing whether or not teachers should be armed with guns and also disseminating information from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office about what to do in a lockdown.

Allen Barber, who works for the district told us no cameras were allowed in the meeting area. A sign was even posted outside. He said we weren't allowed to take video because...

"It's a bunch of teachers and parents, a bunch of controversial subjects," said Barber

We weren't allowed, even after seeing another photographer inside walking around with a still camera.

After being asked whether it was a public meeting he confirmed it was.

"We've gone through this every week we have the right to keep you out of it. It might inhibit the meeting."

However, according to a ruling by the Oregon Attorney General's office, cameras and other recording devices are allowed because they constitute notes for members of the public. That means everyday citizens and news reporters as well.

"Individual citizens attending the meeting obviously have the right not only to be there but also to see and hear, to remember and report; and if they wish to enhance their ability to see and hear by wearing glasses or a hearing aid, or to remember and report by taking notes or otherwise recording the meeting, it seems obvious that they must be permitted to do so," ruled former Oregon Attorney General Lee Johnson back in 1976.

"A citizen or reporter with shorthand ability could make a verbatim transcript; a tape recorder would do no more," the document also said.

However, the attorney general's opinion does say individual citizens could be prohibited from recording only if they're acting in a way that's disruptive.

In talking with Superintendent Cynda Rickert she said:

"At the outset of putting this together we wanted to create an atmosphere where real, honest conversation could take place [...] We were concerned cameras would be disruptive [...] After speaking with our legal counsel we were told we were within our rights to stop cameras from being there," she said to KOBI-TV's News Director Julie Akins over the phone.

We sent her the documents from the Attorney General's Office and she said after reading them she's willing to reconsider the decision going forward.

About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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