Alumni Profile: Bill Chamberlin

Bill ChamberlainSource: Inside UF (University of Florida campus newspaper)

Bill Chamberlin has been the Joseph L. Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communications at the College of Journalism and Communications of the University of Florida since 1987. He now serves as Director of the Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project. He also is an affiliate professor of the UF College of Law.

The Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project is a comprehensive study of open meetings and open records laws in the 50 states. The study produces rankings of state laws, links and other information to all state access laws, seminars, and publications in academic and trade journals.

Chamberlin frequently has spoken to public and media groups about access to government information, the First Amendment, freedom of information, regulation of the electronic media, and libel. He has been active in fighting for effective access to government information for close to 30 years. He has worked closely with citizens, editors, other academics, access organizations and media lawyers in both North Carolina and Florida, and produced access-oriented publications in both states. He has testified before committees of Congress and the Florida legislature, as well as administrative committees in Florida. He was a key ingredient in the development of a suitable electronic records policy in Florida, and was a founding board member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. He founded both the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and the Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project at the University of Florida. His advisees — including Charles Davis at the University of Missouri, Susan Ross at Washington State University, and Martin Halstuk at Penn State University–are among the most recognized scholars focusing on access issues in the country. He helped develop the only book, “Access Denied: Freedom of Information in the Information Age,” about access to state government information in nearly 50 years. Several of his published articles are critical of government access policy and his activities have resulted in several awards. For example, in 2003 the Society of Professional Journalists awarded Chamberlin’s current 50-state access project the Sunshine Award. Also in 2003, Chamberlin was inducted into the first class of OMB Watch’s Public Interest Hall of Fame.

Chamberlin is the co-author (with Kent Middleton and William Lee) of a major undergraduate textbook in mass media law, “The Law of Public Communication.” The edition for 2003 has just been released. He is the co-editor (with Charlene Brown) of “The First Amendment Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Meaning of Freedom of Speech and Press.” He has published chapters in several other books and articles in American Journalism, Communications Law & Policy, the Federal Communications Law Journal, The Florida State University Law Review, Information and Communications Technology Law, the Journal of Broadcasting, Journalism Quarterly, the North Carolina Law Review, the Newspaper Research Journal, Popular Government, the Public Relations Review, and The Urban Lawyer. He serves on the editorial board of Communications Law and Policy and the advisory board of the Journal of Law and Public Policy.

For more than a decade, Chamberlin was an officer in the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. He has been a member of the AEJMC Executive Committee, chair of the Standing Committee on
Professional Freedom and Responsibility, chair of the Bill of Rights Bicentennial Committee, chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee, head of the Law Division and its publications committee, and co-founder and chair of the Communication Technology and Policy Committee. He received the first AEJMC Presidential Award for Outstanding Service in 1984.

Chamberlin arrived at the University of Florida after teaching from 1976 to 1987 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At the University of Florida, Chamberlin has led the development of a strong graduate curriculum in mass media law, including a doctoral degree plan, and joint degree programs that allow a student to receive both a JD and either an MA or a PhD at the same time. He has served on multiple college and university committees, including the UF Foundation Board of Directors, the UF Graduate Council, and the UF Sponsored Research and Graduate Education Task Force. In 2003, he was honored as one of the top doctoral mentors on the UF campus.

Chamberlin received a BA in journalism and a PhD in communications from the University of Washington. He received an MA in political science from the University of Wisconsin. He served as a director and assistant professor of journalism at Central Washington State College. He also worked at Congressional Quarterly and newspapers in Moses Lake, Yakima, and Ilwaco, Washington. In addition, he worked at United Press International and the information offices at both Central Washington and the University of Washington.