WNC CONFIDENTIAL: Your key to hard-to-find public information and records.

WNC CONFIDENTIAL is a Carolina Public Press feature about official secrets and public disclosures — all from, about or relating to the mountain region. On selected Thursdays, we’ll give you the key to resources and recent revelations and put hard-to-find records at your fingertips.

New workshops put you in the know about government info

March 11 to 17 is Sunshine Week, an annual homage to freedom of official information that is celebrated nationwide.

To mark the occasion, Carolina Public Press is launching “Full Disclosure,” a series of public-records events.

Upcoming workshops will share the wealth of (mostly) free information that’s available to anyone, if you know where to look and how to ask. The first is on Thursday, March 15, at Western Carolina University; the second is on March 16, at UNC Asheville. WCU’s Department of Communication and UNCA’s Department of Mass Communication at UNCA are co-hosting the event. Mountain Xpress and UNCA are sponsors. Seating is limited; click here to learn more and register.

The Internet’s role in advancing access will loom large in the sessions. For example, we’ll discuss these 10 key resources for finding public records in North Carolina, for starters:

N.C. Guide to Open Government and Public Records

A joint publication of the state Attorney General’s office and the North Carolina Press Association, this guide was produced in 2008, and it still provides an accurate and concise explanation of most of the state’s laws on public meetings and records.

North Carolina Press Association

Many of the state’s stalwart defenders of freedom of information are involved with the NCPA, which has about 178 member media organizations, the most being newspapers.

The association’s website is a prime place to track challenges and changes to state openness laws. See monthly newsletters, which appear on the homepage, and weekly updates, for up-to-date news and commentary.

The Sunshine Center at Elon University

The epicenter of North Carolina’s openness community is the Sunshine Center at  Elon University, which serves as headquarters for the North Carolina Open Government Coalition.

On Wednesday, March 14, the center will host a conference featuring a keynote address by Barbara A. Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation.

Year-round, the center’s homepage is another good place to check for breaking news about North Carolina’s public records.

NC Local Government Law Blog

The finer points of state public-records law are a frequent topic on this blog, which is written by several faculty members at the UNC School of Government.

NC OpenBook

A one-stop shop for discovering where North Carolina gets its money and how it spends it, NC OpenBook is produced by the state’s Office of Management and Budget.

North Carolina State Archives

An extraordinary compilation of historic records has long been located in Raleigh, at the North Carolina State Archives.

Now, a growing body of those paper materials is emerging online, at the archive’s digital projects page.

State Library of North Carolina

The State Library of North Carolina, also in Raleigh, highlights key documents in its holdings with posts tagged “state doc pick of the week” and hosts an ever-expanding archive of state government publications.

N.C. State Board of Elections

The N.C. State Board of Elections site contains all of the campaign-finance reports filed by candidates for state offices. The page also has a link to a database of the state’s registered lobbyists.

American Library Association’s North Carolina database collection

With help from a North Carolina volunteer, the American Library Association curates a page of databases of state and local government information on topics including crime, health, the environment and education.


NC MOSAIC, operated by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, is a kind of catch-all site, offering “maps, publications, records and historical documents that have been made available on the Internet by libraries, historical societies, government agencies and corporate offices throughout the state.”

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Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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