Reporter Guide

Obtaining Public Records

Public records are a powerful basis for stories, but tracking down the ones you need can be tricky. Public agencies are often reluctant to hand over records, however, even when the law clearly says they should. Sometimes they don’t know or understand the laws well; other times, they just don’t want their information in the public eye. Reporters need to be familiar with state and federal records laws and, in consultation with their editors, skillfully use those laws to get maximum transparency from schools, school districts, universities, education departments and other public agencies.

What steps should you take to begin a public records request? What are some of the most common requests reporters make?