Defending the Public’s Right to Know

I’ve got a good story coming out tomorrow, written in collaboration with one of my colleagues at the Sun. It’s about a school board member who gets out of control at sports events and school administration’s unwillingness to release information about it. We were able to get people who were familiar with the documents do go on the record, however, and do almost the exact same story as we would have done otherwise. The only difference was an added portion about the school’s refusal and basing the stories on quotes instead of documents. We confirmed with five different people the school received complaints, however, so we know the information is good. And they all went on the record to confirm it.

Then today I got to call the school board members to get their comments. I pushed hard for explanations as to why information about a public official was being kept from the public, and in at least on instance a board member felt I was too aggressive, even hostile. That sucks, since I was only looking for information, but luckily one of my colleagues was able to speak to her later and let her know I hadn’t intended to come off that way.

It is hard to sit by, however, while a board denies the public their right to information. The unfortunate point in this instance is that it was administrators, not board officials, who made the decision. The board members didn’t know anything about what was going on, even though the administration was ostensibly acting in the board’s name. I pushed the board because they should have been made aware of what was going on. They weren’t, and that stinks.

But it has made for a good story, and at the end of the day we did good work. Despite efforts to keep potentially embarrassing information about  a public official private we were able to get it out there. That’s what it’s all about, and it’s nice to be able to finish the day knowing that’s just what we did.

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