Editorial: Public records in the digital age

From The Denver Post:  Access to government records is essential to hold officials accountable. But if that access isn’t in harmony with modern times, it’s useless.

The Coloradoan newspaper in Fort Collins requested a digital database of Colorado State University’s employee names, salaries and raises to examine allegations by a CSU professor that the university has based pay raises on gender.

CSU denied the request, saying it already has made those records available in hard-copy form in the university’s library — a physical record of 145 pages covering more than 4,500 employees.

Technically, it appears that CSU is following state open records law.

CSU says it has no obligation to produce the digital database it keeps because it already has printed it. But to a modern-day journalist or interested citizen, a large database that can be manipulated and searched in a digital format is much more useful for examining records than the same information in paper format.

CSU may be correct that its paper release complies with the Colorado Open Records Act, which says “all public records shall be open for inspection by any person at reasonable times” unless limited exceptions apply.

The law should be clarified to reflect 21st century technological advancements.

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