Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tools of the Press in the Digital Age - Arrests, Mug Shots, Grand Jury Presentments, Public Records, Open Records Requests and Social Media.

News Tidbits for Reporters looking for stories.

One of my favorite websites has been shut down for about three weeks now and it is probably gone forever, therefore some reporter out there looking for a story might want to check out why http://www.dekalbmugs.com and its sister www.gwinnettmugs.com is now shutdown.  Much like my grandmother who use to read the obits to see if she had passed, I looked forward to the daily e-mail from the Community Watch service of DeKalbMugs telling me who was arrested in the zip codes around Dunwoody.  (It also highlight by address which apartment complex had the residents who were arrested and on what offense.)  Sad to see it go and I will have to remember to pull up the Dunwoody Daily Bulletin and the DeKalb OJS for similar info.

Question - Why does the DeKalb DA fail to populate Grand Jury Presentments on its website and a better question to ask might be why was the only item posted in over a year, posted at all?   Was it because it was a negative reflection on DeKalb County Government and the running of the jail by the Sheriff?  Was it posted for political reasons or was the lack of everything else not posted for the same or different political reasons?  When only select public documents are posted, it raises concerns as to the reason behind the posting.   FYI, I did an open records request back in 2011 after DA Robert James was in office for awhile where I was looking for the Grand Jury Presentments as they are public records and to remind him and his office that they should all be posted online.  It looks like I will need to do another open records request once again?

About a week ago, I received an anonymous email to review a website pointing to documentation on DeKalb County Commissioners "supposed" use of purchase cards for possible unauthorized reasons.   Someone went to quite a bit of trouble to review years of documents to find and post at least one questionable purchase on five of our current commissioners.   When I received the email, I figured it was sent to a large bcc list of folks and that I would see it in the news.  Since I hadn't, I sent out this tweet and because of it I am still getting requests from various reporters asking for the details.  For what it is worth, the email asked me to look at http://www.dekalbopenrecords.com unfortunately like the situation with the DA's office above, highlighting limited documents, limits the credibility of the source.  I wish the DeKalbOpenRecords site scanned and posted all of the purchase card records for everyone, to see everything.   Maybe that is the FBI's job?

Back on July 9th, I posted a report from WSB-TV that showed that our DeKalb Water System wasn't properly warning us of issues and that they were fined for the infraction.  I mentioned this at a Dunwoody City Council meeting and then decided to personally reach out to DeKalb to verify for myself the level of testing that was being done on the water we drink.  On July 14th, I requested water testing data from Mr. James Chansler the Director of DeKalb Water and I received a nice reply on the 16th stating... "I have asked our operations folks to gather the sampling information and will reply to your inquiries soon."    In light of the EPD violation and the recent issues in Toledo and West Virginia; three weeks is enough time for me to wait as the official time limit for open records is much less.   I will post all documents upon receipt.  

Since I am a long time member of the Atlanta Press Club (though not considered a journalist) - I figured I would share a conference that I will be attending entitled "Journalism Next - Thriving in a Digital Age" that is being put on by the APC and the Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University.   I am really looking forward to a number of the sessions, in fact it looks like I will miss my friend David Clinch's presentation on "We’re in the Curation Business" for the personally relevant "Hyperlocal - Locally Sourced News" conversation.   It should be interesting, if you are into this type of thing.

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