Jensapp3's Blog

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Lot’s of good information from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office September 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — jensapp3 @ 5:23 pm

This week our class met with J.D. Callaway, Public Information Officer for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. This week’s speaker I think was by far the most informative one yet.

Everyone received hand-outs of all the many forms deputies must fill out for the various crimes committed. Having these documents helps us “beginning reporters” figure out what all the cop lingo means and how we can write a story from it.

The one that I found to be most helpful for reporters is the criminal report affidavit or C.R.A. for short. This document gives the reporter all of the beginnings of a story. The who, what, when, and where.

If you’re pressed for time and can’t make it to the jail, and you need some basics, then the charge report is good document to get. Minutes after someone is booked into jail, the charge report can be viewed and printed on-line. In this document the reporter can see a picture of the accused, address, date of birth and all of the charges.

Something interesting Callaway said was when deputies or firefighters are arrested, their home address is not listed on the charge report. One thing this class has taught me though, you can use other public records to get their address if need be!

Another piece of great information given was about traffic crash reports. Callaway said these documents are only available to the parties involved, insurance companies and attorney’s. All others must wait six months. This is so ambulance chasers can’t get their greedy little hands on the victims personal information and bombard them with inquiries on if they need a lawyer.

This week’s winner for most valuable tips- there is a three records a day rule, so choose your records carefully and be prepared to make many trips to the sheriff’s office!

Good page to bookmark:


Chris Davis September 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — jensapp3 @ 2:47 am

Investigative reporter Chris Davis from the Herald Tribune was our guest speaker this week in the public affairs reporting class. What he and his team at the Tribune accomplished over the last few years is amazing. He talked to us about the power of using data bases and how they can enhance your story.
Over 50 years ago, a family in Sarasota County was brutally murdered in their home and the killer is still unknown. Matt Diog, investigative reporter at the Herald Tribune, used blueprints from the now torn down home the family was killed in. He read police reports and court documents to recreate the crime scene. He, along with graphic designers, created an interactive graphic for the Tribune’s website where viewers could explore the scene and view the evidence for themselves. All of the information used to make this graphic came from public records and using them at their finest. Using multimedia in this way is what the future holds for journalism. Readers tend to respond better to visuals and there is no better visual than the one the Herald Tribune created.
Davis also used public records to help investigate and write a story about house flipping in Florida. They contacted over 60 counties and created a data base of all of the houses that were bought and sold in 90 days and made a significant profit. After analyzing their data they ended up busting about 10 people who were flipping illegally. After they collected all of this data, they created a data base for it and let readers look through it online.
I know that many websites contain data bases with tons of information stored inside, but I never really knew how you can use those resources to help you write your story. Davis’ visit to our class was very insightful!


Tim Nickens Visit September 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — jensapp3 @ 1:40 pm

Tim Nickens, editorial page editor for the St. Petersburg Times, came to visit my public affairs reporting class on Tuesday. He had a lot of good information to tell us about public records and what we can do with them. Florida has the strongest meeting laws than any other state in the U.S. At the local and state levels, any meeting with two or more public officials must post their agendas and allow the public to attend the meeting. The only time a public official can meet in private is if they are being sued. This is so they can discuss defense strategy.
The legislation decided to exempt themselves from these meeting laws, so many meetings and conversations take place with out the public knowing about it. Most of the time, the deals are made behind close doors. When the legislation is deciding about the budget for the year, they meet in private and discuss where the money is coming from. Only in public do they talk about where the money is going to be spent. This could create issues because deals could be made that could favor personal goals, not what is right for the American people. The public thinks they get to help decide on a bill, but most of the time the bill has already been decided upon before it is made public.
Some other great points Nickens made was about autopsy photos. About 8 years ago, autopsy photos were considered to be public record, but after the deadly crash of Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt, autopsy photos are no longer public records. The written documents and findings of the autopsy are still public, but the photos are not.
Also, any government agency must print public records for only $0.15 a page. You should also get your records in a timely fashion. If the records are kept in an off-site facility, you only have to pay the hourly wage of the lowest paid employee. So don’t let the government take advantage of you. Know you rights and fight for them.