Brooks Fuller offers insights for News & Observer’s coverage of changes in N.C. public records law

Fuller's analysis of the impact of legal changes that provide legislators with more latitude in shielding documents from public scrutiny was featured in multiple pieces by the News & Observer of Raleigh.

North Carolina legislators last year passed changes to the state’s public records law that provide them more latitude in shielding documents and records from public scrutiny. It was a legal change that opponents said would give the public less insight into how lawmakers make their decisions and could open the door for abuses of power.

Brooks Fuller, Director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition and Assistant Professor of Journalism

In its examination of the legal changes, The News & Observer drew upon the insights of Brooks Fuller, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition and an assistant professor of journalism, who has been an active advocate for freedom of information and access to public records.

Fuller told News & Observer reporter Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan that the change, which makes it up to lawmakers to determine what public records from their work are revealed, is “a massive backslide in public access to information,” noting that the change provides no incentive for legislators to share information with the public.

The impact will be that the public will often have an incomplete picture of the work of state government, Fuller told Baumgartner. In general, “you cannot trust that documents that come out of an elected leader’s office are the entire picture of any public policy question,” Fuller told the reporter.

Fuller’s analysis was later included in an opinion column by News & Observer Executive Editor Bill Church titled, “When it comes to transparency in the NC legislature, foxes are guarding the hen house.”

Fuller researches and writes about free expression, unprotected speech, political extremism, democratic participation and media ethics, primarily using qualitative research methods. The North Carolina Open Government Coalition is a nonpartisan nonprofit housed at Elon that educates the public about access to government information in North Carolina and advocates for improved democracy and civic life through government transparency.