Getting the word out, Part Three

Last week I spoke to members of the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) about legislative communications. My hope […]

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Last week I spoke to members of the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) about legislative communications. My hope is that the tips in this series of posts are helpful year-round.

When speaking to people about working with news media, I often make the point that journalists don’t fight your battles for you. Journalism can shine a light on key issues and expose a situation.

Good journalism brings forward all sides of an issue, to present to readers and viewers. That lets readers make their own conclusions about something and be better informed.

Here, we cover news through the lens of disability. That means our focus on, say, the state budget will focus on how much is spent on human services or what happens to one of our programs.

While journalism has changed really in my 50-plus years of writing and editing, I still have to believe that a journalist’s job is not to decide that they have figured out the truth after hearing only one side of the story.

We get a lot of people who want us to champion a cause. We at Access Press don’t take positions on issues unless it is something we’ve chosen to explore in our monthly editorial. Disability issues are almost always multi-faceted. We sometimes have our own advocacy groups at odds over an issue.

One request we hear at Access Press from time to time is for help with data access. That’s not something we can take on due to our own workload. But we can offer these tips for people looking for data.

The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act gives all members of the public, the right to see and have copies of all public data that government entities keep. The law also controls how government entities keep government data and how they respond to requests for data.

While the Department of Administration’s policies and procedures related to access to government data are outlined on its page, the department’s Data Practices Office more broadly provides assistance and advice on data practices and open meetings to the Minnesota public and government.

https://mn.gov/admin/about/data-access/

https://mn.gov/admin/data-practices/

All state departments and office have processes in place to help members of the public obtain data. Here is the link for the Minnesota Department of Human Services:

https://mn.gov/dhs/general-public/about-dhs/data-requests/

The challenge is, it’s very hard to get data during a legislative session because of the office workload. One resources is the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI). It is the state’s all-volunteer freedom of information council. It engages in public education, legislative advocacy and litigation to further the cause of government transparency and the public’s right to know at a time when freedom of information is at a crossroads.

Learn more at https://mncogi.org/

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