Although I learned a lot this semester about data sharing and organization, I don't have a real product to show for it. Because the actual data is harder to find than expected.
It's sad, because I expected to have a real product that would give the Washington Daily News a hand in the transition to online journalism.
But this class isn't about helping one small-town newspaper. It's about getting information to the public.
And what I've found is serious violations with to North Carolina public records law.
I hope whoever takes on this project after me is able to use what I've done and continue.
I've attempted to get my hands on public records, and I've found that they aren't really public. I asked the local journalists, they don't have any problem getting their hands on them. But going in as a citizen, they aren't public at all. And I've talked to the lawyers for the North Carolina Press Association, and they agree with me that I've got a case.
It's not okay to charge $5 for one sheet of paper that's a police report. It's not okay to censor the manner in which a crime was committed. It's not okay to hide the blotter or let us look through reports.
I'm creating a memo for the next person to continue the project. Right now, I'm in the midst of writing letters and requesting records.
I hope this product gets created. But more than anything, I just hope I make Washington, N.C., a more transparent place for everyone.
So now I'm going to put together everything I know. I know I can make a prototype if I really wanted. I'd have to write an SQL, and I could at least get address and incident type to make some sort of crime map for Washington.
But this has become something much bigger. If there's one thing I know I believe in, it's open government.
So that's my goal from here on out.