David Cuillier is an associate professor in the School of Journalism at The University of Arizona. He specializes in public records reporting and co-wrote the book, The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records, the second edition of which is being released this month. The book teaches journalists and involved citizens how to gain access to public records, which he says is an art that requires understanding of the system and human behavior. For this week’s Requester’s Voice, Cuillier spoke to MuckRock about his book and the study he worked on this past year.
From restrictive laws contributing to prolonged response times, and high fees stopping the release of records, the State of State Public Records Laws is on a bumpy ride. To get a better sense of what’s going on at the state and local level, we’ve been analyzing our MuckRock data and finding the trends in records requesting.
In order to get a better sense of what’s truly going on with public records laws, we decided to take a look at data from over 2,600 agencies in MuckRock’s API. The numbers show the staggering differences in state and local average response times as well as the number of requests filed and completed in those states.
Getting records from your local agency can oftentimes bring headaches, long delays, and even lawsuits. Yet some municipalities in Massachusetts are proving the stereotypes wrong and releasing records in the blink of an eye.
Records requests can take anywhere between a few days to sometimes even years. But how much does the level of the agency impact how long you’ll have to wait? Eesha Pendharkar sifted through the last four years of our request data to find out.