Help #EndAlz, support the McGuff Media Houston Walk to End Alzheimer's team [CLICK HERE]

Thursday, December 16, 2010

KTRK 13 Undercover's Wayne Dolcefino says stop copying my work

KTRK 13 Undercover investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino, is as my grandmother might have said, fit to be tied. Why? He says a few other Houston reporters are doing investigations on his investigations you might say.

"I appreciate the compliment, but have we reached the stage in journalism where people can't figure out for themselves what they want to inspect," asked Dolcefino.

There is an area of journalism where I consider the reporters to be like Jedi Knights to make a weak comparison to Star Wars. These are usually the investigative reporters. They are the ones enterprising stories, looking where others are not.

To do this, they must put in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests into government agencies. These are official sounding, legalese looking requests asking for particular information. Many times the government agency will put up a little static in handing over the documents. You have to know how to word the request carefully and accurately to get the goods. [LEARN MORE - U.S. Department of State Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Texas Public Information Act]

So in this case, Dolcefino puts in these types of requests. But that means his requests are now open records too...meaning anyone else can put in a request to see what information Dolcefino is requesting. This is what he says other reporters are doing to him.

For example a reporter sends in something like this to a government agency:

I respectfully request an opportunity to VIEW any and all documents provided within the last 3 months to Wayne Dolcefino or any journalist from KTRK.

"I suspect it is something [the other reporters] would not want the public to know," Al Tompkins with The Poynter Institute told the blog. "Which is why you should write about it."

Is this type of "requesting what a fellow journalist is requesting" concept creative reporting or akin to copying off your neighbor's paper in elementary school? I don't know the answer. So I went to Al Tompkins at The Poynter Institute, someone way smarter than I am, for his opinion.

"Based solely on what you describe, it sounds low-brow, borderline juvenile but not unethical unless it involves deception or law breaking," Tompkins told me. "On the other hand I don't want to discourage investigative reporting, however they come to it. It would be nice if they could find their own stories and sources. Goodness knows there is enough to be reporting to keep everyone busy."

So there you have it straight from a respected journalism expert. In Dolcefino's case turnabout is fair play as he can figure out who is requesting his requests...

- Former KTRK 13 Undercover photographer joins KIAH 39 News
- KTRK 13 investigative producer Steve Bivens leaves the Wayne Dolcefino world COMMENT: Click to leave your thoughts on this post here