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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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Top 10 tips for getting public records

Have you ever been denied a public record? Or worse, has your request been ignored? Student journalists at Indiana University dealt with those frustrations this past spring when they put 90 county agencies to the test by asking for digital access to public records. The students found that more than half of the agencies failed to comply with basic … Read More
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Why employment contracts are so much fun for a public records geek

What is your favorite public record to request? Employment contracts are near the top of my list. They can tell you so much more than what someone's salary is. For instance, did you know that some public employees get private jets, personal drivers, country club memberships and other benefits as part of their job? Journalists around the country have discovered … Read More