Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of Open Missouri?
Open Missouri is here to serve as a trusted source of information about databases that are kept offline by state and local government agencies here in the Show-Me State. Also, Open Missouri serves as a platform for people who are interested in connecting with each other about state and local government databases. Open Missouri seeks to enhance civic life by increasing government transparency for citizens and journalists.
Who can join the Open Missouri community?
Anyone. We welcome citizens, journalists, librarians, other information professionals, politicians, activists, business people, government agency workers, web developers to our community.
Is Open Missouri affiliated with any one group?
No, Open Missouri is an independent project. We are non-partisan, even though some of our supporter members and organizations may take stances on political issues and elections.
Who supports Open Missouri?
- Missouri Sunshine Coalition
- Missouri Broadcasters Association
- Missouri Press Association
- Missouri League of Women Voters
Whose records are these anyway?
They belong to you, even though they are stored on government computers, sometimes in secure password-protected systems. They belong to you, even though you might hear the data referred to as "government information." It's really "your information."
So what makes this my information?
Legally, the Missouri Sunshine Law makes this information yours. Broadly speaking, the law says all records collected by state and local government agencies are yours. The law also provides exemptions that make certain information private.
Why does Open Missouri lack links to online databases?
We think it's great that state and local governments are putting data files on the web so the public can download, view and analyze them. Agencies should strive to post more data. We decided to focus our resources on building a catalog of information about the data that they're collecting but not posting on the web. We believe that act of disclosure will enhance transparency.
Does Open Missouri release private information stored in government databases?
Definitely not. We follow privacy laws that have been passed by federal and state lawmakers. However, because the purpose of Open Missouri is help you better understand state and local government, we will inform you about databases that mix public and private information, or hold completely private information. The Missouri Sunshine Law requires government agencies to redact (or remove) private data if it's mixed with public data, and release the public portion.
So is this like Wikileaks?
Another definitely not. Open Missouri is not an intermediary for funneling leaked information to journalists. However, community members may attach and share copies of public data files that they obtained from government agencies.
How did you collect the information that was on Open Missouri at launch?
Missouri School of Journalism graduate students working as reporters for Open Missouri canvassed state agencies for database inventories. We then entered that information into the catalog.
Did all agencies cooperate for the initial launch?
No. A few agencies provided full information quickly, and we really appreciate that. Others said they would not give us anything.
Is Open Missouri an official state government website?
No, Open Missouri is not officially affiliated with state government agencies, with one distinction. Open Missouri was launched by the Reynolds Journalism Institute. RJI is part of the University of Missouri, which is a state agency.
How is Open Missouri funded?
Open Missouri is funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, through the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism.
How does Open Missouri gather and verify information about state agencies and databases?
When you and other community members suggest a database for the catalog, we ask you to provide as much information as you can. We edit this information and check it for accuracy before making it available on the site.
Why is information about some databases incomplete?
We strive to give you as much information as possible. However, sometimes agencies will fail to provide complete information. We believe it's better to get as much information out about these databases. You can help us by providing details later.
Why should you care about the original format, which is a key detail that we try to provide about the databases?
The original format is important because the Sunshine Law says agencies are required to provide data to you in that format, if you request it that way.
How do we use information you provide?
Can I contribute money to Open Missouri?
No, we are not a registered 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. If you'd like to support open records, data and government, we suggest you give to the Missouri Sunshine Coalition or the National Freedom of Information Coalition, a non-profit based at the Missouri School of Journalism that supports FOI activities across the United States.