Fight for Open Records
In July 2005, Jim Parsons, a reporter with WTAE in Pittsburgh, requested financial records from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Association (PHEAA), the agency that provides loans and grants to Pennsylvania students. Parsons cited Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, a statute central to oversight of public agencies. Reporters for the Associated Press and the Harrisburg Patriot News also filed requests for records. These very typical, sometimes taken for granted requests were met with a law suit naming all three reporters in a civil action. The reporters countersued. And eighteen months later, they won. The opened records revealed a mismanaged agency in which high level administrators and state legislators used funds for luxurious junkets in the name of “doing business.” When all the news reports—more than twenty—were completed, PHEAA was the subject of major administrative changes. The top executive was forced to resign, calls for massive changes were in place and a bill to strengthen the Right to Know Law was in process. These reforms were the direct result of a reporter’s insistence that the public does indeed have a right to monitor the work of public institutions. For demonstrating the powerful significance of our “right to know,” a Peabody Award goes to Fight for Open Records.
PRIMARY PRODUCTION CREDITS
Executive producer/News Director: Bob Longo. Photographer: Kendall Cross. Editor: Michael Lazorko. Reporter: Jim Parsons.