Lots of good information shared Friday during the annual conference of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.
Here are some of the tidbits I collected:
-- Brian Collister, San Antonio TV investigative reporter, talked about some public websites that offer databases to mine for information: the Texas Department of Transportation motor vehicle crash reports; the Texas Ethics Commission campaign finance reports; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's various reports on workplace safety; and GuideStar's reports on nonprofit agencies. By searching the state database on registered sex offenders, Collister produced a piece on a convicted molester who was working as a clown at children's parties.
-- Daniel Lathrop, news applications editor at the Dallas Morning News, talked about the use of APIs (application programming interfaces) to pull information from government websites in real time; and about the use by journalists of Google's DocumentCloud to make more public data available online. He also called on legislators to bar public agencies from skirting the open records law by putting their data into the hands of private vendors and claiming the information suddenly becomes proprietary.
Lathrop and other speakers talked about keeping up the fight for government openness and transparency. They said this fight cuts through politics with both Republican and Democratic candidates talking up the virtue of the public's right to know and then doing exactly the opposite after they take office.
I've just scratched the surface of all the information shared during the conference, but I hope I've piqued your interest. The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas (of which I'm privileged to serve on the board) supports the principle that the public's business should be done in public view.
The Texas Public Information Act and other sunshine laws stand for all of us. If you've ever watched a city council or a school board meeting -- or been affected by their decisions -- you've benefited from these protections.
Thank you for your contribution.Flag this as inappropriate
- Follow ChrisCobler