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Headliners Foundation of Texas announces small market Open Records grants

The Headliners Foundation of Texas has initiated a program to help media organizations in small markets with their efforts to report news utilizing the Texas Public Information Act.

Quite often, the biggest hindrance to such reporting in small markets is the high cost of obtaining public records.

The Headliners Foundation hopes to encourage more enterprise journalism with its new grant program which will consider applications from broadcast, digital news organizations and newspapers in Texas counties with populations under 100,000, as well as other factors such as circulation. 

Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis for actual charges incurred for one specific and identifiable cost – payment to governmental bodies for providing records.

The maximum reimbursement per project is $2,000.

 “We have a history of support for Texas journalism,” said Mark Morrison, chair of the Headliners Foundation.

“We hope this innovative approach will make a difference in smaller communities where it is needed.”

The new one-year pilot program will reimburse small-market news organizations in Texas for extraordinary expenses charged by governmental bodies for open records searches.

The grant application process is now open and will continue until the 2016 Foundation funding for the grants is fully awarded.

The goal is to help enable community journalism organizations overcome financial challenges in open records costs to pursue enterprise related to public issues in keeping with the Headliners Foundation mission: “Promoting Excellence in Texas Journalism.”

“Critical to journalism’s watchdog function is the use of public records,” said John Lumpkin, Foundation vice chair and chair of the grant screening committee.

“Texas law provides that governmental bodies can charge for searches and other costs related to open record requests. Such charges can be an obstacle to the unfettered flow of information in smaller communities because fees aren’t scalable by market size.”

Morrison cited an additional role for the Foundation in the new program.

“We have the willingness and the capacity to provide feedback about crafting open records requests to maximize the useful information for journalists’ reporting and minimize expense,” Morrison said.

A key benefit of this project would be educational experience for journalists in using the Texas Public Information Act as a tool.

The Foundation’s Professional Excellence Committee members have volunteered to serve as mentors to grant recipients on how to frame requests to acquire needed information at the most cost-effective method and how to deal with related issues.                                                                                                    “Our hope is that the pilot program, if successful, can lead to a sustaining commitment in future years for such grants and also provide first-hand experience in smaller news organizations on using Texas’ public information statute,” said Lumpkin.

More information and online grant application forms are available on the Headliners Foundation of Texas web site at

Questions? Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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