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Posts by Kelly Hinchcliffe

About Kelly Hinchcliffe

Kelly Hinchcliffe is an investigative reporter at WRAL.com in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is passionate about public records. She previously worked as an education reporter at The Herald-Sun in Durham, North Carolina, and The Frederick News-Post in Frederick, Maryland.
NEWS

Inside the mad dash to dig through the finances of 180 White House staffers

Some called it a Friday night news dump, but it was more like a frustrating trickle. One by one, the White House began slowly releasing financial disclosure reports Friday evening for about 180 of its top staffers, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner and Sean Spicer. The reports, which show how much money President Trump’s top aides have … Read More
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Here are 20 of the best open-records stories so far this year

Last week, journalists and media organizations around the country observed Sunshine Week, an annual event to celebrate transparency and open government. They reported on problems and areas of promise in holding government accountable. I’ve compiled a list of more than a dozen Sunshine Week stories from around the nation, including a project I worked on with a coalition of reporters … Read More
NEWS

How far will President Trump's media blackout spread? The Sunlight Foundation is trying to find out

As news began to spread this week that some federal agencies were limiting or shutting down the flow of information to the public, Alex Howard grew increasingly concerned. As deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for open government, he wondered if these were isolated incidents or a government-wide directive from the new administration under … Read More
NEWS

How The Sacramento Bee caught a college boss whitewashing her online record

Imagine telling a story so important that it “spreads across the country like wildfire” and has “explosive” reactions. That’s how two reporters from The Sacramento Bee describe an article from earlier this year that led to the resignation of the University of California, Davis’ chancellor. Senior writers Sam Stanton and Diana Lambert found that the university paid consultants … Read More
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After 6 years and thousands of public records requests, MuckRock turns nonprofit

In the past year, MuckRock has helped reporters and others file more than 10,000 public records requests to government agencies. Now, the site will be posting some of its own public records since it has officially become a nonprofit organization. MuckRock founder Michael Morisy made the announcement Wednesday and said he hopes the site’s new nonprofit status can lead to … Read More
NEWS

7 lessons from BuzzFeed’s 'FOIA-friendly newsroom'

Does your newsroom have a public records strategy? Do you track how many Freedom of Information requests reporters make? Who do your reporters turn to for help if they are struggling to get records? Answers to these questions likely vary by newsroom, but I recently got a chance to find out how BuzzFeed’s news staff is working to improve the … Read More
NEWS

MuckRock ordered to take down public records

MuckRock, a website that helps journalists and others request, analyze and share public records, has been forced by a court order to remove documents. A Washington state court ordered MuckRock to remove documents after a private company filed a temporary restraining order, claiming the City of Seattle mistakenly released records that reveal the company’s trade secrets, including an audit … Read More
NEWS

Running into a brick wall with your FOIA request? Take it public

When I’m having trouble getting public records from a government agency, I’ll often turn to my colleagues for advice or just to vent. But sometimes, you need to take your struggle public. That’s what New York City reporter Joaquin Sapien did last month. After spending nearly a year trying to get records from the city and exchanging more than 50 … Read More
NEWS

Here's why you can't successfully FOIA President Obama's 'Game of Thrones' screener

Do you remember your first Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request? Vanessa Golembewski, a features writer at the entertainment and lifestyle website Refinery29, has a memorable one. She recently asked the federal government to give her unreleased episodes of "Game of Thrones" after learning that the TV show had given advanced copies to President Barack Obama. “President Obama is … Read More
NEWS

Here are 13 of the best open-records stories so far this year

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of articles being published by Poynter to commemorate Sunshine Week. View the rest here. In honor of Sunshine Week, I asked fellow journalists on Twitter to share their favorite open government stories from around the country. Here are some of their top picks along with a few of my … Read More
NEWS

Meet the BuzzFeed editor whom data journalists love

Last fall, I started reading a newsletter by BuzzFeed data editor Jeremy Singer-Vine that combines three of my favorite things – journalism, public records and data. His weekly newsletter, called Data Is Plural, is packed with what he calls “useful/curious datasets” — both serious and lighthearted. I first heard about the newsletter through my colleague, Tyler Dukes, who called … Read More
NEWS

Reporter reveals ‘12 kinds of emails’ professor got after blocking media

I remember watching coverage of the protests at the University of Missouri in November and seeing a YouTube video of an assistant professor grabbing at a journalist’s camera and calling for backup to block him from recording. "Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here!" Melissa Click said in the … Read More
NEWS

50 states, 50 public records stories

Each month in this column, I try to feature journalists who are telling important stories using public records. For my final column of 2015, I wanted to do something big and decided to find public records stories from all 50 states (plus, a bonus: Washington, D.C.). This is not meant to be a “best of” list. It’s simply a collection … Read More
NEWS

Can FOIA be funny?

Can FOIA be funny? Curtis Raye thinks so. He has created a comedy show celebrating the quirky, off-the-wall records he and others have found through the Freedom of Information Act. Raye, a writer and former improv teacher, says he created “FOIA Love: A Comedy Show About Public Records” after spending nearly a year working as a field … Read More
NEWS

Ask for check registers and other public records tips you probably haven't thought of

Check out the checks. (Photo by jridgewayphotography/Flickr) I was at a journalism conference in Nashville last year when I heard about a public record I had never thought to request. Tawnell Hobbs, a reporter at The Dallas Morning News, was giving a presentation on school finance reporting when she mentioned an investigative story she had done using … Read More
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