FOI annual meeting, IowaWatch dinner will be Sept. 29

An Iowa native who is an open-government adviser to the White House will be the guest speaker on Thursday, Sept. 29, at the fourth annual IowaWatch banquet.

The event will be held at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Des Moines as part of the Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government Day. The schedule for the day also includes:

  • The Iowa Freedom of Information Council’s annual meeting that afternoon.
  • The presentation of the annual Harrison “Skip” Weber Friend of the First Amendment award by the Iowa FOI Council at the evening banquet.
  • A public forum on the increasingly thorny issue of access to law enforcement records. The afternoon forum will be hosted by The Des Moines Register and will be sponsored by the Register, the Iowa FOI Council and the Iowa Newspaper Association.

The speaker at the dinner that evening will be Corinna Zarek, a native of Carter Lake and a graduate of the University of Iowa, who now serves as deputy U.S. chief technology officer.

Zarek leads the White House’s work to build a more digital, open and collaborative government. She also coordinates the United States’ involvement with the global Open Government Partnership, a 70-country platform driving greater transparency and accountability around the world.

Zarek received her bachelor’s degree and law degree from the UI. During her senior year, she was editor of The Daily Iowan, the student newspaper at the Iowa City school. Later, as a law student, she served on the board of trustees of Student Publications Inc., the nonprofit corporation that owns The Daily Iowan.

Before taking the White House job, Zarek was an attorney for the National Archives and previously was FOI director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C. In addition to her White House job, she is an adjunct professor of communications law American University in Washington.

The Sept. 29 banquet will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council in October 1976. The banquet’s theme will be “Forty Years, Freedom of Information, The Fight Continues.”

During the banquet, the Iowa FOI Council will present its annual Harrison “Skip” Weber Friend of the First Amendment award. The award — named for the well-known Statehouse reporter — honors Iowans who have made significant contributions to the First Amendment and free press in our state.

IowaWatch, the nonprofit investigative reporting organization, will present its Stephen Berry and Randy Brubaker Free Press Champion awards, respectively, to a working journalist or journalism educator and to an Iowan who promotes the role of an unrestricted news media and open government in means other than as a journalist.

Berry, a retired UI journalism professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, was among the founders of IowaWatch. Brubaker was managing editor of The Des Moines Register at the time of his death in 2014.

IowaWatch is part of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan news service based in Iowa City that collaborates with Iowa media partners to produce investigative and explanatory journalism. The center also trains college students to do this kind of work.

IowaWatch was founded in 2010.

During the afternoon of Sept. 29, Des Moines Register opinion editor Lynn Hicks will moderate a panel of journalists, a law enforcement official and a legislator as they explore questions surrounding access to law enforcement investigative files. Panel members will field questions from each other, from the audience and from Hicks.

The actions of law officers and people they come into contact with are coming under increased scrutiny across the United States. Government agencies contend that it is solely at their discretion whether investigative files of law enforcement officers will be made available to journalists and to the public.

Admission to The Des Moines Register forum and to the Iowa FOI Council’s annual meeting are open to the public at no charge. Tickets for the IowaWatch dinner are $55 per person and must be purchased by Thursday, Sept. 22.

How to register

To register for the public forum on law enforcement investigative files or for the IowaWatch banquet, click here.

Schedule of events

  • Public forum on police investigative files — 2-4 p.m., Des Moines Register Community Room, 400 Locust St., first floor, Des Moines, IA 50309.
  • Iowa FOI Council annual business meeting — 4:30-5:30 p.m.,Des Moines Downtown Marriott, 700 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50309.
  • Celebrating a Free Press and Open Government and the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Iowa FOI Council — 5:30-8:30 p.m., reception and dinner, Downtown Des Moines Marriott.