Editor’s note: In celebration of Sunshine Week, I’ve asked journalists from around the country to tell me how they use public records in their reporting.
The nation’s newborn screening programs depend on speed and science to save babies from rare diseases. But thousands of hospitals fall short, deadly delays are ignored and failures are hidden from public view — while babies and their families suffer.
One of my big stories last year had to do with North Carolina (and other states) withholding public records. We did a series on delays in newborn screening throughout the country. To quantify the problem and see where delays were occurring, I requested newborn screening data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Many states refused to release the information and I had to spent months fighting for it. Eventually though, I was able to analyze nearly 3 million newborn screening tests from 31 states and show that babies’ lives throughout the country are at risk. There’s still a fight to be had out there though. Many states, including North Carolina, will not release their data.
- Interactive: Which states refused to release the data?
- How I did it: My fight for the public records
Thanks to Ellen Gabler for sharing her story. If you are a journalist and would like your public records story featured on this blog, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me on Twitter @RecordsGeek.
- SUNDAY: David S. Fallis, investigative writer/reporter at The Washington Post
- MONDAY: Alex Richards, data & investigations reporter at Chicago Tribune
- TUESDAY: Peter Eisler, investigative reporter, and Barbara Hansen, data journalist, at USA TODAY
- WEDNESDAY: Becca Aaronson, health care & data reporter at The Texas Tribune
- THURSDAY: Kate Martin, Tacoma City Hall reporter at The News Tribune
- FRIDAY: Tisha Thompson, investigative reporter at NBC4 Washington