"I’m still trying to get more information from meetings" by: Mike Reddell

   Reporting on local government has always created a certain amount of tension for me.  
   First and foremost for me is my hearing. 
   I’ve written about this before and there’s no real need to go there, except things haven’t changed and it’s still difficult to hear.  
   Boards or meeting when people huddle in a circle is my favorite, especially if there’s little effort to make sure everyone can hear.  
   A problem that I don’t see going away and getting worse if the lack of information to work with.  
   Any of the agencies can look at a sheaf of papers or on iPads and read the detailed information they need to decide on an issue.  
   Most of the time that’s not immediately available to the press. I say immediately because I can ask for copies or in some cases filed a Freedom of Information request for a document or documents.  
   Here’s the deal. As a reporter sits there, you can record or scribble down your notes furiously and hope you got the essence of what was discussed.  
   Here’s the part I love. 
   Doesn’t matter if you didn’t get the information beforehand to help write your story, if you get it wrong, they’ll set you straight then.  
   It’s rare that I get a full agenda packet at any meeting anywhere.  
   Most of the time the reasoning for that scarcity of information is that the documents in question involve sensitive information.  
   I agree that’s true some of the time, but not always. 
   Nevertheless, officials and staff get to determine what’s easily accessed by a reporter and most of the time decide to err on blocking access.  
   And a lot of the time it’s not sensitive, but the information is still scarce or too much trouble to provide.  
   They’ll argue they’re following the law, but they’re actually interpreting the law  
   That last part is a real bummer – can’t you share with me the applicable statutes?   
   No, it’s now become: file your open records request.  
   I have liked being a reporter for 46 years now and telling a community’s stories.  
   Governments – and law enforcement agencies – miss out by not letting us tell their stories completely.  
   And, no, I don’t think local governments like to hide stuff.   
   I think they just like to control stuff – even if it doesn’t belong to them.  

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