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Newsonomics: In Memphis’ unexpected news war, The Daily Memphian’s model demands attention
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Oct. 12, 2017, 12:31 p.m.
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LINK: www.muckrock.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Ricardo Bilton   |   October 12, 2017

Here’s something surprising about MuckRock, the nonprofit site created to increase access to public records: While the site was founded over seven years ago, neither one of its founders have been working on the project full-time.

That’s changing. MuckRock said Thursday that it’s raised $440,000 from The Knight Foundation and The Democracy Fund, which will help both Michael Morisy and Mitchell Kotler spend more time on the project. But much of that funding will also go toward a series of new initiatives aimed at further supporting the site’s mission to help reporters, academics, and even ordinary citizens better understand how government works.

One key goal for the cash is to make the organization itself more sustainable by growing its revenue streams and expanding its subscriber base. While the site has been growing its revenue consistently over the past few years — mostly via filing request fees and donations — persistent concerns about its financial independence pushed MuckRock to go non-profit last summer. To get a better idea of what readers already use the site for, and what kinds of features they might want, MuckRock created a survey to ask how it could improve.

The organization says it’s also interested in starting more public records projects with news outlets, and, in general, helping more reporters chase FOIA-based investigative stories. Training programs are core to that vision, and so is a broader marketing campaign to push the message of the importance of government transparency to more people.

MuckRock says that the funding comes at an important time for public information requests, the power of which has waned over the years. A recent Knight Foundation survey found that, among scholars and reporters, the Freedom of Information request process is still rife with “lengthy delays, ignored requests, excessive fees and, in many cases, an unwillingness to consider producing government records because of outmoded technology.”

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