Public Records Officers' Perspectives on Transparency and Journalism


Public records officers are often the first point of contact for citizens and journalists requesting public records through state and federal sunshine laws. Very little research has explored the opinions of public records officers about the process of open records requests, particularly in the context of journalism. Adopting a theoretical framework synthesizing the sociology of law with journalistic discursive institutionalism, this study applies an exploratory survey to better understand this aspect of the open government process. Findings suggest that public records officers exhibit a high level of paternalism, challenging journalists’ foundational discursive role as government watchdogs. These findings offer guidance for journalists and public records officers on how to better cooperate with each other in the transparency process.