Friday, January 1, 2010

Open records requests "soaring" in Richardson. Really?

Ian McCann, in a story in The Dallas Morning News, tells readers that open records requests in Richardson are "soaring." Really? He tells us that the number of requests went up from 257 in 2008 to more than 300 in 2009. That is, instead of, on average, one request being made per weekday (M-F) in 2008, Richardson is now receiving, on average, another request on Saturday, too. I guess the definition of "soaring" is open to interpretation. After the jump, how Richardson compares.

McCann goes on to tell us that Coppell received about 3,500 requests in 1999. Compared to that, Richardson's 300 is hardly worth noting. 95% of Coppell's requests came from just five people. After the most frequent requesters stopped asking for records, Coppell's requests dropped to 600 in 2009, still double Richardson's "soaring" total. I'd say the data presented so far is way too skimpy to draw many conclusions at all. The variation from city to city, year to year, is too great. The ability of a few cranks and kooks to influence the totals is too great.

Perhaps most telling is the lack of any accounting of how many of those open records requests led to anything newsworthy. Instead, The Dallas Morning News is reduced to reporting on the open records requests themselves. There is nothing in the The Dallas Morning News story about what's been revealed by the open records requests. What we are left with is a meta-story about the process of getting information from city hall. If the information ever proves newsworthy, then we'd get a real story. This isn't it.

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