By Mallory Hisler
Difficulties in getting information from government sources shouldn’t scare reporters off from following their stories, Hadassah Schloss, Cost Rules Administrator for the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, told students at Baylor’s journalism awards banquet Tuesday.
“Keep asking the questions, and do not accept no for an answer,” Schloss said at the annual Journalism, Public Relations & New Media student awards banquet in the Great Hall at George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
At the banquet, Schloss received the First Amendment Freedom Fighter Award for her work in the Open Records Division of the office of the Attorney General of Texas.
Paul Carr, director of Student Publications at Baylor, and Ruth Soucy, deputy general counsel for Open Records for the Texas Comptroller, said Schloss literally wrote the book on open records in Texas.
“Hadassah actually wrote all of the cost rules on the Open Records [Act],” Soucy said. “She has really been in the forefront on that — keeping the public informed.”
At the awards banquet, Carr’s assessment of who exactly Schloss is was simple.
“She is a defender of freedom,” he said.
Open records rules allow for freedom of information, which is something the media depend on as they gather facts for stories. Carr and Soucy said Schloss’ role is a vital one to the public.
As Cost Rules Administrator, Schloss creates rules governing what it costs to obtain copies of public information, deals with complaints about overcharges and handles government requests for rule exemptions.
She also serves as vice-chair of the Open Records Steering Committee.
“Hadassah is the person that you go to if you have questions about charges for records,” Soucy said.
Soucy said those coming from the governmental side should not want to be seen using cost to keep people from getting information.
“You want to be as transparent as possible,” she said. “She advocates for public information access. As a governmental entity, you want that kind of guidance.”
Schloss said where she came from had a lot to do with her vigilance in making sure information was provided fairly. Born in Argentina, Schloss moved to Israel and now resides in Austin.
“Coming from a culture where people are encouraged to not ask questions, it became important to me because democracy can only function in the sunshine — in the light,” Schloss said. “It can’t work behind closed doors.”
Schloss’ said her goal in her work is for both sides of a problem to be able to find middle ground.
“We have forgotten how to see each other in a civilized manner,” she said. “It has become ‘if you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong,’ as opposed to finding a consensus.”
Schloss’ position is in the government, but her function is for the public, Soucy said, and she believes Schloss is able to navigate both sides well.
“Hadassah seems to be able to promote public access and leaves both sides feeling like they won,” Soucy said. “That’s a really hard thing to do when negotiating complaints, but she does it.”
Schloss was also the recipient of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas 1996 James Madison Award and the 2006 Open Doors Award from the Fort Worth Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, among others.