Don’t wait for the press

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.

Don’t wait for the press–look into your finances now.

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.

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2 responses to “Don’t wait for the press

  1. I appreciate you throwing some love my way for the work my colleague Molly Motley Blythe and I have done on school financial records recently. However I must comment to clear up an inaccuracy on your post: I never recommended board members “not wait for the press.”

    My presentation at the recent national conference of the Education Writer’s Association was made for the benefit of reporters, who wanted to learn a little about what we’ve done i Dallas and how we did it. A writer from the American School Board Journal was also in the audience, and HE wrote a piece on his publication’s website urging board members to take a page from our play book. Never in my presentation did I even suggest that this is something school board members should be doing.

    Just wanted to state that for the record.

    Kent Fischer
    Dallas Morning News

  2. Thank you for the clarification, and for the great work you’re doing. I should have read the article I referenced more carefully.

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