The pro bono effort comes as government entities have increasingly denied reporters’ requests for public documents.
By Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, September 28, 2022
Part of a journalist’s job is holding the powerful accountable — including government agencies that are funded by taxpayers. One way Salt Lake Tribune reporters do that is by filing requests for public records, looking for contracts, emails and text messages, or other reports showing just how that money is spent. But increasingly, it’s become more common for Tribune reporters to get the same answer when they ask for a public record: No.
That’s why lawyers from five Utah law firms have agreed to donate their time to the nonprofit news organization to help reporters appeal records request denials — and get information that should be public under the law. These appeals can be time-consuming, where a Tribune journalist, who is not a lawyer, argues against government attorneys about why a record a record should be public. And when the news organization has hired attorneys to represent it, it’s not cheap.
“Tribune journalists filed more than 300 open records requests last year, and the most common response we received was ‘no,’” said executive editor Lauren Gustus. “We requested information that belongs to the public and that, in most cases, was clearly in the public domain. And so we’re thrilled to have additional support from local experts who can help us navigate this important process.”