Southern California Papers Helping Wage Public Records Transparency War

Last week we reported on San Diego CityBeat reporter Dave Maass’ effort–called Flashlight–to compile a comprehensive list of links for California reporters to use while searching for public records. Now the LA Times has launched a similar endeavor--providing readers with tips and selective links about how readers can obtain public records from their community institutions. Both are noble efforts in the traditional fourth-estate model–empowering readers and fellow journalists with the know-how to effectively engage their government.

As of now, the Times’ site is less extensive and easier to navigate, providing good background information on public info access, while Maass’ San Diego project is a much more practical tool for journalists who already know what they’re doing. Even though the site is San Diego-based, we asked Maass to explain to us how LA journalists could use the links he’s dug up in their reporting.

While Flashlight is intended as a tool for San Diegans, we’re still aggregating national and state links that are applicable to a lot of other regions. Journalists or citizen researchers from elsewhere in California may also find them useful as we attempt to make the sets exhaustive.

If you’re a journalist just arriving in California or assigned to a new beat, our link sets are a good place to start digging for stories. The aim is to create bundles of the indispensable bookmarks, as well as the more arcane ones.

You don’t have to use Flashlight SD the web page to access these links. They’re all on delicious, which is also an easy way to access our bookmarks. People are welcome to integrate these links into their own pages or bookmark bars or duplicate them in their own delicious feeds.

One benefit of using our feeds is that they will automatically update as we discover and add more links. Here’s our state-based linkset (78 links and growing every day)

And here are our national links (75 and growing everyday)

Through delicious, you can sort by campaign finance and then use that as a regular link list or turn it into a drop down menu bar. For example, here’s our ultimate list of national links for political influence:

and again state based
For just the best bones, you just have to further sort by the 5star tag