COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio news organizations and the Ohio Coalition for Open Government collaborated on an audit to gauge access to public records in Ohio. The goal was to replicate an audit the coalition conducted 10 years ago to see if compliance with public records requests had improved.
Journalists from newspaper, television and radio stations throughout the state were recruited to serve as auditors in all 88 Ohio counties. The audit began April 21 and, in most counties, was completed within several days.
To ensure consistency, journalists were trained in how to phrase records requests and how to record their findings.
The auditors were assigned to locations where they would not be recognized, and they did not identify themselves as journalists when making requests so they would have the same experience as a typical citizen seeking public records.
They made in-person requests for many of the same records that had been sought in the earlier audit. But this year’s audit added a variety documents that were requested by email, in order to gauge the growing trend toward electronic access to public records.
Media lawyers reviewed the records requests to ensure that they were clearly in the public domain.
The auditors were recruited from media outlets that are members of the Ohio Newspaper Association and the Ohio Association of Broadcasters. The audit was overseen by the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.