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Database & Public Records Reporting/JOU3121 | News Workshop/JOU 3113

 

 

Know How to Negotiate for Records

Negotiating for either paper or electronic records is as much an art as it is a science. Here's some of the best advice on how to negotiate for either. They're all worth reading, though there is some overlap among them. There are also two examples of public records requests.

 

Florida AG's "Sunshine" links: Note especially the "Open Government Mediation Program" run by Pat Gleason, the AG's general counsel. Ms. Gleason is among the best resources for quick public records questions and can often run interference between reporters and recalcitrant public officials.

 

20 Tips for Using Open Records Laws: Advice from Jennifer LeFleur of the Dallas Morning News and Joe Adams, of the Jacksonville Times-Union and author of the Flolrida Public Records Handbook.

 

Negotiating for Data with Reluctant Local Officials: From Bob Warner, a take-no-prisoners reporter who works at the Philadelphia Daily News.

 

Using FOIA: These tips on using the federal Freedom of Information Act from James Grimaldi of the Washington Post can also be applied to state public records laws.

 

The Top 38 Excuses: Government agencies come up with all sorts of reasons to explain whey they can't fulfill your public records. Here are a few dozen, geared mostly toward electronic records, along with suggestions on what you can say or do in return.

 

How to Speak Like a Geek: Sometimes when you're negotiating, they'll start talking geekspeak. This handout, "How to Talk Like a Nerd" goes through basic computer terminology. Or they'll start throwing around terms like CSV or TXT or even (gasp) dbf or xls. These two sites, filext.com and file-ext.com, explain what they mean.

 

Sample Public Records Requests: Feel free to use these as models for your own records requests. Written for use by Florida journalists, they can be modified according to the law in your state. Request for Paper Records. Request for Electronic Records. Remember that impressions count; put these letters on letterhead and print them out on high-quality paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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