AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Georgia students learn sobering lesson on government transparency

Filing requests for public records is one of the first things students at the Georgia News Lab learn. The lab is supported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News and teaches Georgia journalism students about investigative reporting.

This fall, the students sought to learn what kind of job metro-governments and agencies do fulfilling requests for public information. In September, they sent simple requests to 148 governments and agencies in 13 metro counties, and kept track of the responses.

The results were discouraging. A third of the governments and agencies didn't comply with the legal requirement to respond to the request within three business days. Many more took months of badgering to comply, and a few just ignored the requests entirely.

As one expert told the students, the records were "government documents paid for by the taxpayers and they should be available to those taxpayers.”

Read about what else the students found on myAJC.com. You can also see a chart of their findings, so you can learn how well your own government or local agency performed.

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About the Author

Ken Foskett has been an AJC reporter and editor since 1989 and is the Senior Editor/Investigations.