These are your records, too

A very nice woman called our newsroom today and wanted to know why we hadn’t reported on a sexual assault in her neighborhood. She found out about the assault while looking at a crime map on our Web site.

Understandably, she wanted to know what happened. Was a potentially dangerous person lurking around her neighborhood? Should the two elementary schools nearby be notified?

I promised her I would check on it and get back to her with some answers. I sent an e-mail to the police department’s public information officer, and about 30 minutes later he sent me the answer:

“The case involves a report of inappropriate touching and involves two juveniles. It remains under investigation; however, based upon the information in the report, it does not appear to be the type of incident that normally results in news coverage.”

I called the woman back and was able to calm her fears. While it was easy for me to contact police and get details about the case, I made sure to tell the woman that she can also call police and get the very same info. That’s the wonderful thing about public records. You don’t have to be a reporter to request information. These are your records, too.

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