Public records release prompts growing concerns over media card issuance

On April 13, two public records requests were sent to the Ohio State Highway Patrol/ Department of Public Safety as part of a discovery process being conducted by Ohioans For Concealed Carry. In addition to OFCC News Manager Chad Baus’ request, the Litigation Chair in OFCC’s Office of General Counsel, Ken Hanson, submitted a request for information on the rules regarding issuance of Ohio Public Information Officer (OPIO) State of Ohio News Media Credential Card.

OFCC can now report that both requests have been answered.

Judging from the information provided in response to Hanson’s request, it is clear the state is arbitrary and capricious in its determination of who obtains these press passes.

There are no background checks on applicants, no fingerprints required, and no social security number is requested. There are no training requirements, and there is no booklet from the state Attorney General on journalistic ethics. Applicants don’t have to be felony-free or drug-free for their lifetime. There seems to be no concern that applicants may have ever been institutionalized for mental health issues. When the card is issued, card-holders are ensured that their “personal data is encrypted”.

The only rule the office cited as being in force over the granting of the press passes is that the sponsoring organization appear in the Ohio News Media Directory. There is no other stated procedure for determining who obtains a press pass.

Attorney Ken Hanson’s immediate thought after reading of the perfunctory policy for card issuance was that “it sounds like the fox guarding the henhouse.”

He explained: “It is extraordinarily rare for a governmental agency to completely delegate eligibility determinations to a third party they have no relationship or control over. This policy acts to ensure that only mainstream media obtains the cards. By controlling the Media Directory, only mainstream media can determine who mainstream media is.”

This policy was applied to the application of News Manager Chad Baus, whose application was recently denied, with an explanation that no “freelance journalists” may receive the state-issued press pass. However, as the wealth of information from Baus’ request has revealed, this standard has not been applied throughout the history of the four-year-old program.

Over 2490 pages were released in response to Baus' request, and OFCC has only begun to process the information. Following are some initial observations:

  • The state began issuing these cards in January 2001. The majority of applications are dated that first year.
  • 1521 cards have been issued.
  • 13 application forms were reported as “missing”.
  • Only 4 of these cards have ever been canceled, and only because an employee at the Ohio News Network took the time to let the OSHP know that the persons were no longer with the company.
  • Only 3 applications have been denied – including Baus’, that of a "student journalist", and a WNKU reporter (no
    reason given).

    Despite claims that no “freelance journalists” are given these press passes, records reveal that cards have been issued to:

  • 1 videographer for Clermont Co. Commissioners office (it is highly doubtful the office is listed in the Media Guide)
  • At least 1 freelance photographer
  • At least 1 freelance writer
  • At least 1 office assistant
  • Numerous sales assistants & advertising account executives
  • Numerous opinion editorial columnists

    The records also reveal that despite having been accused of or convicted of crimes, at least two former journalists’ credentials have not been revoked:

  • Former reporter and convicted child molester currently serving 5 years prison sentence.
  • News anchor arrested for driving w/ blood-alcohol level more than twice legal limit.

    After scanning the application information, Baus noted the irony that while satellite truck drivers, advertising sales persons, and even secretaries have been given these cards with impunity, his own application was denied because he is not considered a “journalist” under the rules of the Department of Public Safety.

    "It is clear that the state is being incredibly short-sighted in its discrimination against online media organizations," said Baus. “I am shocked by the arbitrary and capricious way in which these cards are given out, yet my own application was denied because I am not employed by a traditional brick-and-mortar media entity.

    Two final (initial) observations:

  • Although they claim to be staunch advocates of open records, several female reporters tried to omit their height/ weight information from the application, and had their applications held up until they provided the information.
  • Only 1,500 people have participated. It appears the OSHP/ Dept. of Public Safety bureaucrats who dreamed up this program knuckled under to a very vocal minority.

    OFCC was interested in obtaining these OPIO State of Ohio News Media Credential Card applications to review what the Ohio State Highway Patrol is doing to ensure that the "wrong" people aren’t getting these cards. It is clear that the answer is, they aren’t doing much at all.

    Analysis of these public records is ongoing, and updates will be provided when warranted.

  • Help us fight for your rights!

    Become a member of Buckeye Firearms Association and support our grassroots efforts to defend and advance YOUR RIGHTS!

    Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter

    Get weekly news and instant alerts on the latest laws and politics that affect your gun rights. Enjoy cutting-edge commentary. Be among the first to hear about gun raffles, firearms training, and special events. Read more.

    We respect your privacy and your email address will be kept confidential.


    Buckeye Firearms Association is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending and advancing the right of citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities, including self-defense, hunting, competition, and recreation. Read more.