Category: Capstone – Summer 2017

Florida Sunshine Law

Capstone - Summer 2017Journalism Thoughts

The public records law in Florida is known as the “Sunshine Law,” enshrined more specifically under Title X, Chapter 119 of the state statues. It is one of the most open such laws in the country. Here are the introductory paragraphs of the law:

119.01 General state policy on public records.

(1) It is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person. Providing access to public records is a duty of each agency.
(2)(a) Automation of public records must not erode the right of access to those records. As each agency increases its use of and dependence on electronic recordkeeping, each agency must provide reasonable public access to records electronically maintained and must ensure that exempt or confidential records are not disclosed except as otherwise permitted by law.

These records are tremendously useful for journalists, who can find and use vast amounts of records on how the government functions, who are awarded public contracts (aka money) and how decisions are made.

Note that the Sunshine Law only applies to state and local records. It does not cover federal agencies (such as the FBI) or the state court system. Interestingly, it does not cover the state legislature, which enacted the statue. However, it does cover the state executive branch — that is, agencies overseen by the governor.

The Florida State Attorney General’s office has a wide-ranging Q&A on the subject, which can be found here.

Upcoming Deadlines & Deliverables

Capstone - Summer 2017

Editors:

  • Wireframe of website due June 22 @ 9 am
  • Prepped and vetted budget due to Prof. Evans by June 22 @ 1pm

Reporters:

  • “About Us” bio and photo (250 px by 250 px) due to editors by June 22 @ 9 am
  • Budget line for Project One due to editors June 22 @ 9 am

Budget Line Example (note that the deadlines are accurate):

Topic: State Civil Courts (Broward and Miami-Dade)
Reporters: Olga Castro & Alex Toldeo
Summary: A look at the public records available in the state courts (that is, not federal) in South Florida’s biggest counties. Includes information about and how-to guides for obtaining records related limited and unlimited civil jurisdiction cases as well as small claims, probate and family court. Includes interviews with Miami Herald reporters on use of these records and tips on how to turn this raw information into compelling journalistic work.
Multimedia: Infogr.am graphic showing the steps a plaintiff has to go through to get his or her money following a successful lawsuit. Includes explanation of how this information might be useful journalistically.
Words: 1,200
Deadline (draft): June 29 @ 9 am
Deadline (final): July 5 @ 1 pm

Public Record Project Requirements

Capstone - Summer 2017

The overarching point of these projects is to provide a useful how-to guide on obtaining and using different types of public records in a journalistic manner. These pieces, then, need to be as clear and detailed as possible. Screenshots are encouraged, but it will be up to your individual editor as to what items are used, and he or she may ask for additional assets or other types of information.

Below are the items you need to include (in order) as well as my expectations on the length of each section.

NAME: Everyone involved in the overall piece

TOPIC: The type of public records being looked at

SUMMARY: (Min 300 words) Additional detail on the public record topic. What types (or subtypes) are going to be discussed and why are they useful in a journalistic setting. In addition, you need at least one human source (for example: professional journalist, academic, spokesperson, etc.) explaining or opining on its journalistic importance.

HOW-TO: (Min 300 words) A step-by-step guide on how a journalist (or anyone) can obtain and use these particular records. Where does one go, who do they need to speak to, and how long will it take to get them. I want this to be as detailed as possible. Is there a particular window or computer terminal in a particular room on a particular floor? Yes? Put that in.

As this is journalism, remember this all needs to be SOURCED. If the clerk at the courthouse tells you need to fill out the blue form instead of the yellow one to get the probate records, get her name. If there is a note above the forms stating you need the yellow one, note that in your piece. Ask everyone you can about the best ways to get these records and add in as much detail as you can.

EXAMPLE: (Min 300 words) You need to include a minimum of two stories that have utilized this type of public record. Reach out to the reporters and editors involved and ask them questions about how they found and used this particular record for the story being referenced. In addition, ask how they used this type of record to seek out and report on future stories. Finally, ask them if they have any concrete tips on seeking out and using this type of record.

MULTIMEDIA: In addition to the text parts above, your piece must include a multimedia aspect. This can be (among others): A video (less than two minutes), photo essay (seven to 15 images), an audio piece or interview (less than five minutes) or a visualization. The multimedia aspect must ADD to the overall piece, not simply restate the same information in a different form.

BUDGET LINES: For administrative and planning reasons, reporters are responsible for submitting a budget line for each project. This includes a summary of the piece, the people involved, deadline and the different assets editors are expecting. Here is an example:

Topic: State Civil Courts (Broward and Miami-Dade)
Reporters: Olga Castro & Alex Toldeo
Summary: A look at the public records available in the state courts (that is, not federal) in South Florida’s biggest counties. Includes information about and how-to guides for obtaining records related limited and unlimited civil jurisdiction cases as well as small claims, probate and family court. Includes interviews with Miami Herald reporters on use of these records and tips on how to turn this raw information into compelling journalistic work.
Multimedia: Infogr.am graphic showing the steps a plaintiff has to go through to get his or her money following a successful lawsuit. Includes explanation of how this information might be useful journalistically.
Words: 1,200
Deadline (draft): June 29 @ 9 am
Deadline (final): July 5 @ 1 pm

 

AGENDA – Senior Capstone – June 20, 2017

Capstone - Summer 2017

WHO: Reporters & Editors
WHEN: 9 am to 1 pm
WHERE: AC2 242

  1. Discussion of Syllabus
  2. Appointment of Editors
    1. Managing Editor
    2. City Editor
    3. Web/Social Media & Copy Editor
    4. Visuals Editor (still photography, video, visualizations)
  3. Creation of Reporter Teams
  4. Assign Topics for Project One
    1. State Courts Civil (including family and probate; Miami-Dade and Broward)
    2. State Courts Criminal (Miami-Dade and Broward)
    3. Federal Courts Civil/Bankruptcy (Florida Southern District)
    4. Federal Courts Criminal (Florida Southern District)
    5. State Appellate Courts (District Courts of Appeal/Florida Supreme Court)
    6. Miami-Dade & Broward Co. Property Records
    7. South Florida Non-profits (aka Guidestar lesson)
    8. Florida Business Records (aka the use of Sunbiz)
    9. Miami-Dade & Broward Campaign Finance Records (local candidates)
    10. Florida Campaign Finance records (state candidates)
    11. FEC (federal candidates)
    12. City of Miami (agendas, ethics commission, etc.)
    13. City of Fort Lauderdale (agendas, etc)
    14. Occupational Health & Safety (federal and state agencies, overlap)
    15. Firearms (state records, CCPs)
  5. Project Requirements / Due Dates
  1. Equipment Sign-Out (AC2 303)

Upcoming Deadlines

Editors: Wireframe of website due June 22 @ 9 am

Reporters: “About Us” bio and photo due to editors by June 22 @ 9 am

Next Class:

June 22 – Reporters optional (but must be avail by phone btwn 9 am and 1 pm). Editors mandatory. Meet at AC2 303 at 9 am.

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