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JOURNALISTS TRYING TO GET MEETINGS LAW REVISED

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Print and broadcast journalists are working with a legislative leader to help revise the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act.

Proposed modifications include opening the Legislature's Rules Committees, which meet behind closed doors to cull proposed legislation, clarifying meeting notification rules and setting limits on exemptions allowing city governments to close meetings when personnel matters are discussed."We need to have some sense of how we're going to push this through," Standard-Examiner publisher Scott Trundle said during a meeting this week to discuss which proposed changes the media can support.

House Majority Leader Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, is drafting amendments to the act for the 1994 Legislature. Stephens has been meeting monthly with representatives of the media, local governments, the Utah attorney general's office and citizen advocacy groups such as Common Cause.

Trundle said the Standard-Examiner is prepared to offer some financial support to strengthen the news media's negotiating and lobbying effort.

"There comes a point where we will have to have one spokesperson," said Deseret News publisher Wm. James Mortimer. He recommended approaching an attorney about handling the job for a flat fee.

But Salt Lake Tribune editor James E. Shelledy said news organizations should try doing the job themselves before paying for an attorney.

"Ultimately, I don't see our chances as great because we're doing our job" reporting on government, Shelledy said.

He said that because the media is viewed by some legislators as an opponent, "Once it becomes a media bill, it's dead."

And because the media has several areas it feels are not negotiable, he said, "The chances of our walking away from this are pretty good."

During the meeting, Deseret News reporter Joel Campbell, an official in the Utah Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, was chosen as the news organization's spokesman with Stephens' committee.