We give that advice to bloggers–don’t wait for paid reporters to file Freedom of Information Act requests–go ahead and do it yourself. There are too many units of government for reporters to keep track of under the best of circumstances, and investigative reporters are being laid off right and left.
But the idea to not wait for the press was recently shared by education writer Kent Fischer, who encouraged members of public school boards to not wait for the press. He is encouraging school board members to use the open records process available to them to find out about financial management problems in their school system–before the press finds out.
Fischer is a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. That paper has been running a series on financial problems with the Dallas Independent School District. They’ve uncovered millions of dollars of questionable spending just by looking at public records.
Fischer suggests that board members start by looking at what district credit cards are purchasing. In the case of the DISD, that included included blanket and pillow sets, Star Trek DVDs, iPods, and a subscription to an online dating service.
Update: Check out the comments for an important clarification.