Carolina Public Press announces open government, data and records project

Carolina Public Press is at it again, continuing to foster a more well-informed region, with its newest initiative. Open WNC, which Executive Director Angie Newsome says she hopes to launch in July, aims to give readers and citizens of Western Carolina easy access to public documents, data and records.

The project is still seeking partners throughout the region.

More from CPP:

Carolina Public Press is pleased to announce that it is working to launch a regional open government, data and records project called Open WNC.

The project is made possible in part through a recent $10,000 OpenGov grant to Carolina Public Press from the Sunlight Foundation, which supports “open-source projects and tools [that] are opening up data and government information in innovative ways.” The project was one of eight efforts across the country to recently earn funding from the foundation.

Carolina Public Press, at carolinapublicpress.org, is a nonprofit online news service providing Western North Carolina with unbiased, in-depth and investigative reporting as well as educational opportunities to journalists, students and others. CPP’s Open WNC effort will, likewise, improve access to public data in under-served communities throughout the 18 westernmost counties of North Carolina by developing institutional partnerships, creating a government data repository and training journalists and engaged members of the public on understanding public records and open government issues.

A major component of the project will be the launch of an online platform and website, openwnc.org [which is not yet online], with the assistance, insight and input of its developing partnership of academic, media, municipal government and community organizations. CPP anticipates that openwnc.org will launch in July.

“At Carolina Public Press, our investigative and project reporters generate an enormous amount of public records and data, and we wanted to create an easy and free way to get this information into the hands of residents across Western North Carolina,” said Angie Newsome, executive director of Carolina Public Press. “We’re excited to be able to work with existing and new partners across the region to launch this Open WNC effort, and we’ll work throughout the project to build a website full of information that people can use to further understand and act on community issues.”

Current Open WNC partners include the communications and journalism departments at Appalachian State University, UNC Asheville and Western Carolina University, as well as the community group Code for Asheville. Code for Asheville is an Asheville-based non-government organization that seeks to improve the way local government works by bringing people, technology and the efforts of civic hackers together.

Already, ASU, UNCA and WCU journalism professors are collaborating on a joint effort looking at water quality data throughout the region. The results of those efforts will be incorporated into the openwnc.org website.

Project leaders also anticipate that the site will contain information such as county and municipal budgets, public meetings announcements and agendas, meeting minutes, and data on topics ranging from community demographics, unemployment and wages to  health care, education and home ownership data. It will also include state government information such as direct links to state legislators’ homepages, links to bills of importance to Western North Carolina and campaign finance disclosure reports. All data and records included on the site will be vetted and include originating sources.

Access to openwnc.org will be free and open to the public. Students, working journalists and community members and organizations may use the site to increase their understanding, reporting and analysis of issues facing Western North Carolina.

The effort will be supported, in its pilot year, in part by the Washington, D.C.-based Sunlight Foundation, as well as individual donors and additional foundations and underwriters. In addition to Carolina Public Press’s Open WNC project, OpenGov grants from the Sunlight Foundation also supported to efforts to better integrate data on groundwater contamination, rebuild open-source software for searching municipal legislation and for a public demonstration publishing the available campaign finance datasets in the state of Alabama, among other projects.

For more information on the Open WNC project, please contact Carolina Public Press Executive Director Angie Newsome at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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