This is a community rich in people - and those people have rich stories to tell. Unraveling those stories is at the root of journalism. Sometimes those stories can be provoked by asking the right questions: the whos, whats, wheres, whens and whys. Other times it requires tips from community sources. In some cases, it requires deeper probing.
While reporters have long been the "watchdogs" of public accountability, few likely know that most of the information journalists rely on to develop stories is readily accessible to them - as long as you know where to look.
The Open Records Act gives the public access to most records maintained by state, local and national government agencies. This includes school boards, city and county governments, law enforcement agencies and even bodies that receive at least 25 percent of their funds from a government authority.
All matters of public record, including filings for marriage and divorce, speeding tickets, court records and even the salaries of teachers can be obtained simply by asking the appropriate public agency.
Like it or not, the same law that gives the Local the right to publish your criminal wrongdoings, also gives it the right to publish the sometimes heinous scandals of public officials you secretly love to read about.
Want to know something about a local agency's spending habits?
In many cases, just click on its web site. Or pick up the phone. I've found all officials here are willing to comply with open records acts, and most officials return a phone call within minutes.
Written requests seeking public information must be processed in less than three days under the state "sunshine law," which expedites freedom of information.
Why am I divulging this?
Because you have the right to know. These officials and public agencies are utilizing your tax dollars and they work for you.
Besides, it's sound advice to know the whos, whats, wheres, whens and whys behind your money.
So here's a challenge to readers.
Below is a list of questions about officials, government agencies and public spending that sleuthing students, inquisitive anarchists or your nosey neighbor should be able to crack.
Those who answer all correctly will be announced in an upcoming edition of the Henry County Local and one person could win a six-month subscription to the paper.
Hint: All of the answers can be found in public records on government web sites.
1. How many members of the six-person Henry County Middle School site-based decision-making council completed training for their position?
D. All 6
2.The City of Eminence has a budget of about $____ to spend on its Music on Main event, according to public spending records.
3.The latest state audit report for the former Henry County Sheriffs tax collection settlement found ____ instances of noncompliance?
D. None, it was a clean report.
4. Which local school did NOT meet all of its 2007 target educational goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act?
A. Eminence Elementary
B. New Castle Elementary
C. Campbellsburg Elementary
D. Eminence High School
E. Eastern Elementary
F. Henry County High School
5. How many convicted sex offenders are registered in Henry County, according to Kentucky State Police records?
Email answers to email@example.com or bring your entries to the paper's office.
Brent Schanding is the Reporter-at-Large for Landmark Community Newspapers, the parent company of The Local. He has been on assignment at The Local since January.