Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Public Records Request ... for public records requests

Every year I ask UGA (where I teach journalism) for the same set of data and public records. I use these to show my students the kinds of stories that can be done. Today, let's talk about one of my favorites: a public records requests for ... public records requests. In other words, I wanna know what other people have asked for.

What? Why do this?
  1. Keep an eye on what the competition is asking for
  2. Fish for story ideas
  3. Because it's just fun to say
I have last academic year's requests. Two-thirds of them are for, sigh, sports. Most are for contracts, expenses, correspondence, free tickets, etc. (just kidding on that last one). Mostly it's about coaching salaries.

Setting aside sports, any good story ideas? Maybe. I plucked out a few:
  • Investigative files from the feds about a complaint filed against Dr. Richard Supilta. This one got covered by the R&B.
  • Someone wanting all studies mentioned by the UGA prez in his argument for merit raises for faculty, etc. 
  • All partnership agreements between UGA and a bunch of companies, like Apple and Google.
  • Records about an incident in at the Ramsey Center in which a student "was injured when she jumped from the 10-meter diving platform into the diving well below."
  • Oooh. A census of all dogs and cats used for research.
  • Personnel file for a (former?) employee.
  • Payments to a certain company associated with a guy named in the request.
  • Copies of all "employment agreements" between the present and former president of UGA.
Yeah, I didn't name names above. If you want to find them, make your own open records request for open records requests. But many years I've seen damn good stories. If UGA were my beat, I'd ask for this every month.

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