How to Obtain Items in the Public Record

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I absolutely love Writersweekly.com. I have told so many other writers about the wonderful articles and resources you offer.

I want to learn more about what is “public record” so that I will have the confidence to walk into city hall or the court house and ask for records. Often times, small town folks who work in these offices don’t even know what the law is and I find myself not educated enough on this matter to push the issue or know where exactly to look for information. I don’t really want to take a law class. Surely there is some place the information is available for writers.

I have looked online and at book stores and there is no checklist for what is public record and where to find it. Do you have a past article that you’ve written on this subject or would you please write one.

I appreciate your response to my e-mail.

Sincerely,
Ms. Cavanaugh

Hi Ms. Cavanaugh,

I don’t have an article on it, but I do know that many states have their freedom of information information posted online. Each state has different laws pertaining to public record, so it’s best to start at the website of the state you’re currently researching information in.

In your favorite search engine, search for “freedom of information” and the name of the state you’re in. For examples, I searched for: “freedom of informationalabama and this was the fourth site on the list:

Alabama Freedom of Information Resources
I see you’re in Arkansas, so I’ll look for:

“freedom of information” arkansas

The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act page popped up first.

To read stories about various states’ freedom of information records (and when journalists were or were not permitted access).

If you approach a government entity and they refuse access to public records, be sure to have a print-out of the law for your state on hand so you can show the clerk their error.

I have hired an attorney to write an article on this topic, so look for that in next week’s issue of WritersWeekly. And, thanks for the question, Ms. Cavanaugh!