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|Gannett Florida Newspapers, TV Post Searchable FEMA Hurricane Aid Database|
Successful Lawsuit Aids Disclosure of FEMA Payments
FORT MYERS, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 29, 2007--Gannett newspapers and television stations in Florida have launched a searchable database of more than 2 million files about FEMA's response to 2004 hurricanes. The posting ended months of legal wrangling over the files.
The News-Press in Fort Myers, Florida TODAY in Brevard County and Pensacola News Journal filed a lawsuit in 2005 asking for information about public and individual assistance distributed by FEMA. The information became public record on June 22, 2007, when the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that release was essential for the public to evaluate FEMA's responsiveness. The News-Press received the record Monday (Aug. 27).
The database spans the four hurricanes that struck Florida in 2004 - Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. It includes addresses of applicants, but not names; how much financial aid was requested and how much was paid out.
This searchable database is available at: www.news-press.com/fema www.pensacolanewsjournal.com www.floridatoday.com www.tallahassee.com www.firstcoastnews.com (Jacksonville television station WJXX) www.tampabays10.com (Tampa television station WTSP)
Because the information is posted online, the public is able to evaluate payments made to people in their neighborhood, city or county. The Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE:GCI) newspapers and television stations are encouraging residents to help in the evaluation of FEMA's responsiveness. Additional postings answer questions about FEMA aid; solicit help in uncovering problems; and request ideas for additional coverage.
If someone believes there is a mistake in the data, they can contact FEMA at 1.800.621.3362. They also should e-mail The News-Press at email@example.com, or call The News-Press at 239.335.0350.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling said: "In light of FEMA's awesome statutory responsibility to prepare the nation for, and respond to, all national incidents, including natural disasters and terrorist attacks, there is a powerful public interest in learning whether, and how well, it has met this responsibility. Plainly, disclosure of the addresses will help the public answer this question by shedding light on whether FEMA has been a good steward of billions of taxpayer dollars in the wake of several natural disasters across the country, and we cannot find any privacy interests here that even begin to outweigh this public interest."
Gannett Co., Inc. is a leading international news and information company that publishes 85 daily newspapers in the USA, including USA TODAY, the nation's largest-selling daily newspaper. The company also owns nearly 1,000 non-daily publications in the USA and USA WEEKEND, a weekly newspaper magazine. Gannett subsidiary Newsquest is the United Kingdom's second largest regional newspaper company. Newsquest publishes nearly 300 titles, including 18 daily newspapers, and a network of prize-winning Web sites. Gannett also operates 23 television stations in the United States and is an Internet leader with sites sponsored by its TV stations and newspapers including USATODAY.com, one of the most popular news sites on the Web.
CONTACT: Gannett Co., Inc.