Mar 22, 2011

Los Angeles Times rides the public document wave

The Los Angeles Times has launched an online public documents clearinghouse that offers readers a chance to learn more about what government documents are available under the California Public Records Act and how to obtain them. Readers are also asked to share records they've gotten from public agencies.

The project follows the Times reporting on the City of Bell salary scandal, which made use extensive use of such public records as executive employment contracts.

The Times, in my experience, has sought out public records in a public way. When I worked at the little Claremont Courier, the Times stepped in to sue for some public records denied to our paper. This obviously gave the Times reporters a crack at a story they might otherwise have missed, but the lawyers for the Times (Karlene Goller, Alonzo Wickers III, etc.) were extremely helpful and kept me, and by extension our readers, abreast of the case.

My hope is the Times expands the project to include the several nonprofits that do the heavy lifting when it comes to lobbying for more sunshine (CalAware, California First Amendment Coalition, CNPA, etc.) as well as other publications (at least nonprofits). Of course, the paper doesn't need to tell everyone what documents it's use for active stories, but once the stories are published, they can join the cloud-sourcing pile.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you're right about the Times doing good work on this front -- they often were willing to sue to get access when other papers would not make the investment, just rant and rail instead (i.e., LANG). one way gets results and the other does not.