Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Open Records Fever

The Tulsa World today touts a journalists victory in getting Oklahoma State University to release grade records to the university's Daily O'Collegian newspaper and the Tulsa World. The university had complied with the open records request earlier but had provided the data in hardcopy form and not in the electronic form demanded by the newspapers. Seems that the Daily O'Collegian wanted the data in an easily number-crunchable format for their convenience so they made a big issue over this as if the university was somehow denying access. The newspapers doth protest too much.

When I first read the article in the World (sorry, the World wants you to pay for looking at them so I can't link to the story) my first thought was, "what the &^% are they doing releasing students' grade records to newspapers?" - but it appears the university did delete names from the data. In a sloppy bit of journalism the World article never explains just what the objective is of the O'Collegians open records request. Do they suspect some sort of hanky panky with grades? Not atypically, the newspapers make the story about the press rather than about the story behind the story. The reader is left to wonder what all this is really about?

I'm no fan of the current OSU administration but I sympathize with them having to take time off their focus to deal with journalists with open records fever. Now don't get me wrong - I'm all in favor of public access to public records but I have little patience with journalists who believe that the records must be delivered to them in a form most convenient for them. Does OSU charge the O'Colly for the time and expense of providing the data in a form that makes the O'Colly journalist's life easy? Somebody has to pay for it.

Journalists are valuable. Good journalists are indispensable. But journalists need to remember they aren't the story.

No comments: