December 02, 2003

Citizen’s Journalism

Good journalism doesn’t need to be complicated, sophisticated or expensive.

The Brownsville Herald, a 15,800-circulation daily in deep Texas, sent out a few reporters to ask local police and city commissions for various public records such as police logs or expense reports. The result: Runaround, hostility and ignorance by public officials and, in one case, a police car that tailed report Juan Ozuna for more than 20 minutes after he left city hall in Santa Rosa, Texas.

Here’s an excerpt:

Later in Brownsville, I went to another Cameron County detention center. There I asked the receptionist if I could see the jail log. The receptionist told me that it is not public information.

I told her that the records are public in all counties in Texas, but she said that I needed to speak with the lieutenant. She called him and told him in Spanish to come out front because there was a girl saying the logs were public record.

The lieutenant asked me what I wanted to see and why. I said it was public record and that any citizen is entitled to see the record. He asked if I wanted information about a specific name because he could give me some information. I said I just wanted to see the log.

Then he proceeded to ask, “Where do you live? What do you want with this information? What’s your address?”

I love this type of journalism. It resonates with truth. It conveys with direct honesty the frustrations of everyday experiences citizens undergo when dealing with government and bureaucracies – and by doing so connects with the public.

Update: Editor & Publisher reports that "many journalists who try to use the FOIA encounter roadblocks and bureaucratic red tape that often keeps their requests from being fulfilled for years, if at all.

 Brownsville Herald The pitfalls of obtaining public information
 Editor & Publisher Reporters Face Lengthy FOIA Delays

Posted by Tim Porter at December 2, 2003 07:51 AM


Posted by: Jozef on December 4, 2003 05:34 AM
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