May 25, 2024

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Minding Your Business: Time to get into the sunshine of FOIA week | Blogs

I usually attempt to deliver valuable info (and if not handy, at the incredibly minimum, entertaining info). But particularly this 7 days — in the course of Sunshine 7 days and just a number of days forward of Liberty of Data Day — I experience it’s my duty to produce a several bits of business enterprise details down below (alongside with a couple of fun situations). Delight in!


• Tennessee tax revenues exceeded budgeted estimates in February, in accordance to the Tennessee Section of Finance and Administration. February revenues totaled $1.2 billion. The expansion rate for February was 9.87%.

• Hold Kingsport Beautiful will hold free gardening seminars Thursday, March 17 and 24 at the Kingsport Community Library. For extra data, go to

• Gas price ranges rose 24 cents, on common, across the condition final week, according to the American Auto Affiliation. The Tri-Cities’ current regular is $4.10.

• Development Kingdom Zoo opens Friday at 10 a.m.


The sunlight is shining this week, and no, I really don’t just necessarily mean outside the house (though it is a wonderful modify from the weekend’s snowfall). Rather, I am referring to Sunshine Week, which honors the general public details that is intended to be in the open, or the “sunshine,” for the community to read through about, problem and, like those people sweet rays of summer months, soak in.

Now, getting in general public document details could not sound quite as enjoyment as basking in the sunshine, but I guarantee you it certainly can be.

If you’re lost on what a public file is, it is generally a file (these types of as police studies, most 911 phone calls, prison information, public meetings and minutes, court documents and much more) that is obtainable to the general public. Some thing that would seem to be lost on citizens, some secretaries and officers, is these records are obtainable to far more than just journalists. They are not journalist information, following all. They are general public information.

In the earlier yr, Situations Information reporters have submitted several requests under the Independence of Info Act.

Reporter Rick Wagner obtained a listing of the Sullivan County School System’s payments as a result of a public documents ask for for its 1099 IRS variety, which incorporated $37,916 for a settlement involving a unique education university student who, in accordance to courtroom paperwork, was place in a “break room” at the former Sullivan Central Large Faculty. Paperwork also reported the faculty process falsified the student’s academic development by giving him grades that had been not earned.

Although some community data contain details most probably not recognised or witnessed by the general public, these types of as the earlier mentioned data, Wagner also received his “killer cousin” Kinnie Wagner’s FBI file by way of a FOI request, which available element into Kinnie’s tale. Wagner’s distant cousin was known for killing a Mississippi sheriff’s deputy, (which attained him a lifestyle sentence in the state). Kinnie escaped two times, failing the moment, and, in among, gained the demise penalty (You are going to have to study Wagner’s attribute on his rambunctious relative to find out what ended up taking place to ol’ Kinnie).

Wagner is not the only 1 who has flexed his public document muscle tissues at the Times News.

In 2021, I acquired 911 calls from Jan. 31, the day Eastman Chemical Company’s steamline rupture despatched vibrations, steam and some debris all over Kingsport, which, as you could possibly envision, prompted some citizen alarm as read by way of the 911 calls. I also been given the just-released law enforcement report around the summer season on the Kingsport Axmen participant who was arrested following earning threats to a teammate by using social media following his launch from the group. Often such documents contain particulars that do not insert a great deal to a tale, but other instances they increase shade to a story this sort of as direct quotations that give the reader additional of a appear at what occurred in specific circumstances. All of my co-staff have requested and acquired several law enforcement reports, court filings, assembly minutes and so on throughout the calendar year and outside of.

At situations, public data aren’t glamorous. They can be figures in webpages-very long studies. They can be extremely brief, anticlimactic bits of details that don’t incorporate to a story. But I can say a person overarching statement about them all — they all matter.

They aren’t for sitting all over the newsroom sharing struggle tales about this community history or that just one. They aren’t for attaching the fancy sunshine symbol to a story so the public can know you did a minor excess work on a unique tale. And they surely are not for Tennessee Push Affiliation Awards, bragging legal rights or inflated egos. They are for you. They are for me. They are for us all.

We are taxpayers. We are element of these counties, cities, states and this state. We have the proper to know how our taxpayer cash is currently being applied, what our elected officials are determining at what are made to be public conferences and what tales held in general public data are not getting explained to to the public. They are critical for information’s sake, but far more than that, they are critical for the truth’s sake.

This week, my co-workers and I approach to make FOI requests in honor of Sunshine 7 days and Wednesday, which is FOI Working day. I hope this week, you get this column as your sign to ask thoughts and make your individual decisions, alternatively than merely using in anyone else’s previously digested feeling.

I program to deal with each and every week as if the public relies upon on me doing my occupation, since that is portion of what can make it essential. You all give me included courage to inquire for these paperwork. You all give me a lot more concerns to talk to when going through a tale I know you all want responses to as a lot as I do. You maintain extra electricity than you know and for the reason that of that, you encourage us to do the job more durable — so that we might all all bask in the sunshine.

So let me ask you just one remaining question (and one that transpires to be 1 of my editor’s favorites)

What am I lacking?

What public records are you intrigued in? Do you have one particular you’d like to request that the Periods Information post? Do you have a tale related to a general public data request you would like to share? (Notice I asked way much more than one query just as just about every journalist need to.)

Ship your notes, small business anniversaries ending in a five or zero and linked views to [email protected].