I apologize, I’ve been a little lazy in the public records department lately, especially with updating this blog, but I was snapped back into it last week when my boss rushed over to me and said, “Stop what you’re doing! The Jesse Helms files just came in!”
I jumped out of my seat and ran across the newsroom to see them. Some time ago (I can’t remember the exact date), I filed a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to get the late Sen. Jesse Helms’ FBI files. As I wrote about in a previous blogpost, FBI files are a matter of public record, even those of deceased celebrities and politicians.
Jesse Helms’ file was nearly 1,600 pages long, and I posted every single page on WRAL.com. Of course, I had to go through and redact all the curse words. (He received a lot of death threats.) Here’s our full story, which also aired on WRAL-TV: “Jesse Helms’ FBI file: Death threats, spying and vote-buying accusations.”
Some viewers criticized us for not posting Martin Luther King Jr.’s FBI file, since he was mentioned in the story. That was an easy fix. MLK’s file is available on the FBI’s website, so I linked to it in the story.