(Originally posted on April 19, 2011)
Poynter.org has some interesting details about the Pulitzer Prize the L.A. Times won for its investigation of outrageous public salaries in Bell, Calif. (among the more interesting details to me, as an editor and former reporter, is that a story can’t get on A1 in L.A. if it’s not filed by 2:30 p.m., Pacific time — before most stories at almost any paper in the Eastern time zone are even filed), but one thing that stands out is a little function that the Times took on as a result of the reaction to the stories:
“Once the Bell city salaries became public, town activists began filing open records requests to learn more. The City of Bell was often slow to respond to public records requests so the Times created a tool to help citizens get the answers they deserve.
“’As part of our coverage, we created a public records request form, to help people to get information from their local governments. One of our city desk assistants still answers those calls and helps people with their public records filings,’ Gottlieb said.
“Then, the Times created a special online DocumentCloud section where readers can share public documents they discover. The section also teaches readers about their rights to read public information and explains what California law says about open records and open meetings. The special section includes public documents that Times reporters obtain on a wide range of topics.”
It’s great the the Times started doing that, but it seems like something that a major news organization — certainly one of that size and prominence — should have been doing already. Maybe every one should.