On January 23, 2011, after more than three months of working on the story, Those 33 terrorist groups in Ramsey County? It was “a very big lie” was published. The story is the culmination of months of work by TC Daily Planet reporter Karen Hollish, made possible by contributions from 57 people through Spot.Us.
Here’s how Spot.us describes itself:
We are an open source project to pioneer “community powered reporting.” Through Spot.Us the public can commission and participate with journalists to do reporting on important and perhaps overlooked topics. Contributions are tax deductible and we partner with news organizations to distribute content under appropriate licenses. Donors can also take a survey from our one our sponsors, when available, to support the story of their choice at no cost to them.
We practice the TAO of Journalism – Transparency, Accountability, and Openness
And here’s the original story pitch posted on Spot.Us:
November 9, 2010 – Did you know the safety and well-being of Ramsey County citizens was threatened last year by 22 domestic and 11 international terrorist groups?
Hey, Sheriff Fletcher—I’ve got a question
Three emails, five voice mails and 23 days later, I finally heard back from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office about our Data Practices Act request. …
Something smells fishy, Sheriff Fletcher
There’s a new sheriff in town
On Tuesday, Jan. 4, Matt Bostrom was sworn into the county’s top law enforcement position. …
Neither did we, until we saw page 72 of Ramsey County’s 2009 Performance Measures and Supplemental Budget report. It says the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating so-called “terrorist groups” here and abroad since 2005, with a vision of becoming “the clearinghouse within the county for terrorism related information.”
But which terrorist groups have our local deputies been investigating, and where did these investigations take place? What were the findings of these investigations, and how much money did they cost local taxpayers?
Looking for answers to these questions and more, the Twin Cities Daily Planet’s Karen Hollish submitted a Data Practices Act request to Holli Drinkwine, the department’s Public Information Officer, on Oct. 20.
The response so far? Silence. Drinkwine has not responded to the initial letter, nor to the numerous follow-up calls and email messages left in the days since.
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As phone calls, emails and continued demands for the information that the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act says is publicly available to any citizen went unanswered by Fletcher, Hollish blogged about our continuing efforts to shake loose information. Those posts are listed in the sidebar column.
Finally, with a new sheriff in office, we got the first response to the Data Pratices Act request for information. The new sheriff’s public information officer described arriving in an office in which “there were zero pieces of paper.” We expect to get more information as the internal investigation continues, and will report on that as we receive it.
“The questions you raise in terms of the scope, personnel and costs of these past investigations are questions that the new Sheriff is also interested in learning answers to,” Gustafson said in his official response. “Upon the conclusion of an internal investigation process now underway we will be able provide pertinent information to you.”