Here are testimonials to our work, by category of endorser. All endorsements should be understood as from individuals, not any other entities.
“As a community activist, I’ve had to fight to obtain documents from local governments which should have been freely provided. I cannot offer enough praise for Public Data Ferret. This is a resource which is sorely needed. Kudos for providing a valuable public service!”
–Ray Akers, southeast Seattle
Public Data Ferret has developed a novel approach to informing citizens about important public policy issues: exploring the often overlooked troves of government documents that are available for public inspection, and then explaining what the documents mean to busy people through concise, objective, and clearly written articles. Public Data Ferret helps close a disturbing information gap that has opened as the media environment has diminished in resources and fractured into partisan outlets that inflame more than they inform. There is an urgent need for the service Public Data Ferret provides.
–Jim DiPeso, environmental advocate, Shoreline, Wash.
“This is a terrific site. Matt Rosenberg couples the best of old school shoe leather journalism with cutting edge resource gathering tools. Along with great writing, this is a Tier 1 site on a Tier 4 budget. I have known Matt for three decades from his days as a young reporter in Chicago and his candle is as bright today as it was back then. This kind of fact-based reporting is dying in so many cities and endangers our local democracies. PDF needs to be supported in Seattle and replicated everywhere!”
–Michael Sacco, Business Rep, IBEW Local 21, Chicago area + Visiting Lecturer (contemporary labor problems), University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
“Wonderful! We need more sources of information that are independent of the politicians and the mainstream media. Great project! I wish you success.”
–Bruce Guthrie, Seattle
“I appreciate having a place to go to find up to date information without having to endure partisan political spin. The website provides useful links and makes it easy to search for topics relevant to my local community, as well as the state and nation. I met Matt Rosenberg…when we both served on an open government panel put on by the Washington Coalition for Open Government and the Seattle Times. I was impressed with Matt’s commitment to open government and the great work he has done to provide citizens with the information they need to hold government accountable. Public Data Ferret is aptly named!
–Meredith Mechling, open government advocate, Monroe, Wash.
“I started working with computers in 1975 when the first micros came into existence. We had high hopes for our Personal Computers. Commercial interests outflanked our hobbyist utopian visions for decades with Business Computers. Now I can see a full circle coming to completion. A computer that empowers individuals, personally and communities organically. I am very proud to know a principal in this effort, Matt Rosenberg, and extend a hardy Congratulations to him and his co-conspirators! At a time when data mining is focused on Us, the value of mining data on Them cannot be underestimated. A balance has to be created for the sake of our society, and its various constituencies. Keep up the good work and I look forward to sharing this model with the hopes it will be replicated far and wide.”
–Clyde W. Phillips Jr., government watchdog, Caldwell, Idaho
“I really support endeavors like the Public Data Ferret. Transparency is the key to a functioning democracy.”
–Krist Novoselic, writer, activist, student, musician; Southwest Washington state
“I have known and worked with Matt for 20 years. He is an excellent journalist with a commitment to citizen engagement. My work with Matt was centered on engaging citizens to participate in their local government’s decision making process…The Public Data Ferret approach is a perfect fit. Public Data Ferret produces original public records reporting at a time when the media industry’s commitment to such coverage is virtually non-existent. Particularly at the local level, newsrooms across the country have had to scale back their coverage of government and no longer have the staff it takes to review public records and report on local issues impacting people’s lives. Citizens no longer have a strong sense of belonging and caring because they don’t have timely access to relevant information. Matt is changing all that.”
Public Data Ferret is taking the traditional notion of new reporting and adding an innovative twist. Matt and his team write original articles based on publicly available government data and documents. The difference is that they dig deeper and find documents that others don’t have the time to discover. They also include links to original source material making it easy for readers to get additional information. Matt uses his knowledge to increase community engagement and capacity for public service by training students and others on his innovative techniques for gathering information.”
–Marianne Bichsel, Owner, Bichsel Public Affairs, Seattle
“The world has changed a lot since I was an editor in the old Knight Newspapers chain (Boca Raton and Philadelphia). One thing hasn’t changed, though, and that’s the need for facts. One could say that the need for facts is even greater today than ever before. Economic models are making it increasingly tough for newspapers to devote the resources to digging up important facts and 24-hour cable news seems to rely more on fantasy than fact in its “reporting.” So along comes Matt Rosenberg and Public Data Ferret. The Ferret is serving an incredible need for good raw data, unadorned by political slant. What Matt does isn’t glamorous, but it makes for a far better democracy.”
–Wiley Brooks, Communications Consultant, Seattle
“I’ve had the pleasure of serving as pro bono counsel for Matt and Public Eye Northwest through out the process of getting it up and running and qualified for tax-exempt status. Matt has put an extraordinary amount of time and effort working to create and direct an organization focused on increasing the public’s access to vital information they need to make informed decisions their communities and their government. The information Public Eye Northwest brings to the forefront is incredibly important, but despite being ‘publicly available’ it is often far more difficult than it should be to access. Public Eye Northwest’s non-partisan focus on increasing access to information is important and a great benefit to the public…Increased access to information such as this is vitally needed, and Public Eye Northwest provides it fantastically. Please support Public Eye Northwest. Thank you.”
–Duncan Connelly, Attorney, Foster Pepper PLLC, Seattle
“This organization makes a difference – in several important ways. Not only does it provide useful and important research and work itself, and in partnership with the Seattle Times, etc., but is has also been SO helpful in providing a speaker for events I’ve organized – to help teach activists how to find and mine government data. The old adage that ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day – teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ is exemplified here. What they’ve accomplished is commendable. With some support, what they could help others to accomplish… would be both worthwhile and something I’d like to see.”
–Phil Bevis, owner, Arundel Books, Seattle + Los Angeles
“In an age when news and information is bundled (and at times mingled with) entertainment, we forget just how interesting real news and information can be. Matt Rosenberg and the Public Data Ferret have not forgotten and make it their goal to present plain facts, surprising facts, little-known facts of public policy to the public. We support Mr. Rosenberg’s efforts to make the Public Data Ferret a valuable resource as well as an indispensable one.”
–Doug Anderson, published novelist (as Dex Quire), foster parent, southeast Seattle
“Matt Rosenberg has launched something here that is certain to be a model for trusted brands of truth and the transparency of public records. This undoubtedly will better serve our communities, journalism, government and issue advocates. We can’t lose. And we desperately need a model like this to bring it all together. Too often, citizens are shut out of access to records that are rightfully public records. We know even the most seasoned journalists must do battle with even the tiniest government agencies to ensure the public has access to records shaping our communities, government, politics and quality of life. And as more news rooms carve out senior journalists and investigative teams, we know the public is already losing critical analysis of what’s happening to our world as we know it. This is important work to launch – because we are already behind!”
–Sue Evans, public affairs executive, former journalist, Seattle area
“Public Data Ferret is an excellent resource for journalists and citizens. It helps illuminate issues that otherwise would go unreported. I first learned about this service during a networking event and I was astonished by the amount of the information that was available using Public Data Ferret. I frequently recommend this service to friends so that they can discover what’s going on in their communities.”
–Josh Holland, strategic communications professional, Seattle area
“At a time when newspapers are devoting fewer reporters to government coverage, organizations like Public Data Ferret are invaluable. The Seattle area greatly benefits from this site, gleaning insights into governments actions and government spending that wouldn’t see the light of day without Public Data Ferret. I hope to see their work continue so more light is shed on decisions made in the public trust.”
–Adam Faber, strategic communications professional, Seattle area
“Open government is an essential building block of good government and a free society. The work that Matt Rosenberg performs on behalf of citizens in the Pacific Northwest through Public Data Ferret is a valuable public service. With time this kind of work will become even more valuable as citizens expect that their elected officials and the government agencies that they oversee are transparent and accountable.”
–Jeffrey Possinger, former mayor – City of Duvall, Wash.); private practice attorney and mediator, Seattle area
“”Public Data Ferret is a truly remarkable and valuable resource. They uncover very useful information that most people would never realize was available — let alone know how to find it. Their approach of making their publications relevant to specific areas is also quite helpful. Matt does a terrific job and his operation is exactly the kind of new information enterprise that deserves support and encouragement.”
–Gary Smith, Smith & Stark public affairs consulting, Seattle
“Thankfully, technology is giving citizens access to more and more data that can objectively tell us how well our public institutions are doing. Unfortunately raw data is practically impenetrable to most of us. Matt Rosenberg and the Public Data Ferret provides the data and puts the information into a narrative that the rest of us can understand. Data is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because we have the means to know the truth, a curse because most us need help to find, organize and interpret it. I am on a school board and we have plenty of data, but most of us find the raw data overwhelming and hard to explain when we do understand it. The Public Data Ferret is an objective reporter who does a great job of transforming public data for use by the public.”
–Susan Goding, board member, Highline School District
“Matt and the team at PEN are working on the key to the future for coverage of public interest issues in the Pacific Northwest. The use of data-driven reporting is vital to the future of our business and this is great progress in exactly the right direction. I often tell my students that spreadsheets and statistics will be as important to their futures as their writing abilities. I am grateful for PEN in leading the way. They are breaking new ground here and I know they will work to spread this model around the country.”
–Peg Achterman, Asst. Professor of Communication, Northwest University, Kirkland, Wash.
“Public Data Ferret is an incredible resource. Our journalism students have used it in the legislative reporting program we run. Rosenberg gave a short presentation at a local SPJ event, and that presentation generated a lot of interest among about 45 communication professionals who attended the session. In short, it’s building an important community of users here.”
–Randy Beam, university journalism program instructor, University of Washington, Seattle
“I lead a State Department fellowship program for mid-career professionals from developing and transitioning countries at the University of Washington, and I asked Matt Rosenberg to come present to this group of scholars in their professional development seminar. His presentation, and the subsequent discussion he led on open government and transparency was an inspiration to our fellowship scholars. Most of these State Department scholars work in their nation’s governments. Many of the scholars returned home, to countries such as Pakistan and Yemen, to work on applying the same principals of citizen stakeholders in government and government accountability in their work. The inspiration they took from their conversations with Matt can only improve the lives of their citizens.”
–Alix Furness, Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle
“The Public Data Ferret proposal is an important effort in support of open government, transparency and civic engagement in the democratic process. It offers new strategies for using public records and for enhancing public involvement in government. It deserves support.”
–Tim Gleason, Edwin L. Artzt Dean, Professor of Journalism, School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore.
“Data Ferret is an increasingly important piece of the PacNW news ecosystem. With the rollback in staff and coverage of the region’s news orgs, there are both physical and content black holes. Emblematic of this, there are just a handful of reporters left in the state capital, thus fewer and fewer journalists with the means and knowledge to access the kind of data so important to understanding and tracking public policy. PDF plays an important role in filling this gap.”
–Lawrence Pintak, Founding Dean, The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash.
“(This) project is just what journalism needs in this time of declining budgets but increasing importance of public knowledge. As a retired investigative reporter with 22 years at the Chicago Tribune and now in my 13th year teaching journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, I recognize more than ever the importance of groups like the Public Data Ferret.”
–William Recktenwald, Senior Lecturer, School of Journalism, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Ill.
“After visiting with Matt Rosenberg…I am more confident than ever in his ability to help improve government transparency and uncover critical public policy issues in the Northwest. Even more exciting, I can clearly see how Matt’s work can be replicated in other communities around the country, from training citizen journalists to creating a digital archive of government documents. Matt’s template has applications in the Northwest, as well as nationally and internationally.”
–Benjamin Shors, Clinical Assistant Professor, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash.
“Matt Rosenberg’s ‘data ferret’ is a very promising way to translate mountains of potentially useful information into usable and concrete stories that are linked to source documents. At the Washington Office of Secretary of State, we are constantly looking for ways to educate the voters and the Public Data Ferret is a great platform. We also promote open and transparent government, and as the parent agency of the State Library, Digital Archives and State Archives, we are acutely aware that hundreds of millions of public documents exist and are available under the Public Records Act. But that access does not equal usage, nor, of course, is there a value-added interpretation of what those discrete documents mean to the average person. So three cheers for this new endeavor, which can be a national model.”
–David Ammons, Director of Communications, Office of the Secretary of State, Olympia, Wash.
“Matt Rosenberg and the Public Data Ferret are a powerful source of sunlight beating back the confusion and complication of finding public information. Many governments and other public agencies still struggle with making their information public. Public Data Ferret shows them the way.”
–Bill Schrier, former Chief Technology Officer, City of Seattle
“…for citizens to be effectively engaged they also should be well informed, and that can be hard in today’s noisy political climate. Public Data Ferret is neutral, objective and authoritative and I highly recommend it…Public Eye Northwest and Public Data Ferret are showing how non-profits can step in and help maintain the health of our news and information system in challenging times. I urge you to consider showing your support for Public Eye Northwest.”
–Brian Sonntag, Washington State Auditor (1992-2012)
“Having been at #opengov as a journalist, as a local elected official and now a board member of the state coalition for #opengov, I prize Public Data Ferret not just because they offer great tools to anyone in our area, but they’re getting shot at in the trenches themselves: in fact, they’re plowing through the mud every day, showing people how it’s done and producing real results. A local government is only going to open up through local efforts. How does a national organization support such regionalized work? Public Data Ferret is worth considering for funding because it can serve as a model…for other local organizations in terms of strategy and tactics.”
–Walter Neary, city council member, Lakewood, Wash.
“I work in the public sector and have plenty of experience with good and bad public policy. I also attended graduate school at Seattle University and studied – probably too much – the intricacies of government contracting, public spending, and much more. It is clear to me that Matt Rosenberg and Public Data Ferret are doing a lot of the unearthing that traditional media sources used to be very good at. Whether it’s information about the University of Washington, a government-funded non profit agency, or a federal bureaucracy, the information made available by Public Data Ferret is always incisive and relevant. I think the difference between Public Data Ferret and other “let’s hold their feet to the fire” journalists and on-line publications is Matt’s complete lack of a partisan agenda – he and his team are simply working to expose important information thoroughly and in a timely manner. ‘The Ferret’ is a great resource for private citizens and public servants, and especially so for the people who inhabit both roles!
“I also feel compelled to mention the great opportunities ‘The Ferret’ is providing young, aspiring journalists and other promising professionals. I don’t know any of the young people personally, but I can say, with certainty, that seeing one’s byline on a Ferret article which is linked to on the main page of the Seattle Times, or simply as a part of a thoroughly researched and well written piece, is invigorating and inspiring. Great work is being done by Matt and his team.”
–L.V., public servant, Seattle area
“Matt Rosenberg has been using his Public Data Ferret as a watchdog of the government. He digs into layered bureaucracies and unearths fascinating data sets that are very important to the public. But the public generally doesn’t take the time to sift through government websites or reports. And unfortunately, few journalists do either. I run an online science news website called REALscience and have known Matt for several years. What he is doing ought to be commended and supported. I often wish I could have a source like Public Data Ferret that would patrol all the federal science agencies and drop data sets into my stories. Perhaps that’s a great way to extend the Ferret nationally.”
–Michael Bradbury, Founder/Editor, RealScience.us
“(In) a long career as a news reporter in print journalism…I have been witness to the long-term decline in the time and resources the media can put into covering government and other issues of public importance. Public Data Ferret is not only filling a growing gap, but it’s doing it with a smart and resourceful use of the increasing flow of public information available online. I have worked directly with Matt to help report complex issues in the community I cover, and so have seen the value of Public Data Ferret first-hand. I can also see potential for Public Data Ferret to become a self-sustaining resource in a local news landscape that is becoming increasingly decentralized. I recommend the work that Matt has started with Public Data Ferret.”
–Annie Archer, former journalist, Woodinville, Wash., ex-L.A. Times
“This is a much needed valuable resource for journalists and the public.”
–Deborah Brandt, former anchor and reporter, KUOW-FM, Seattle; Past President, Houston Press Club.
“The work of the Ferret is vital for the support and nourishment of grassroots democracy and with traditional news sources in decline in many areas it has a key role to play in helping to fill the void. Transparency, accountability and integrity are the hallmarks of any healthy society. As well as mining and refining public data, the Ferret provides knowledge and tools for others to do the digging – and it’s this aspect that marks it out as worthy contender for further investment.”
–Paul Brannan, former broadcast news executive, London; communications consultant
“As an independent blogger who writes daily about Everett, Wash., I want to take a moment to tell you what a wonderful resource Public Data Ferret has been for MyEverettNews.com. Matt has been able to put together information that as a single person trying to write about a community of over 100,000 with a major naval base and a Boeing assembly plant with more than 30,000 employees, I could never accomplish. From an Everett health care worker losing a license to coverage of Puget Sound Regional Council decisions that affect the people living and working here, Public Data Ferret and Public Eye Northwest are an invaluable resource helping this hyper-local publisher keep shining a light in places our daily newspaper doesn’t reach.”
–Leland Dart, Founder, publisher, Editor – MyEverettNews, Everett, Wash.
“Matt and Public Data Ferret are the real deal. They know where to look for cold, hard facts that illuminate public-policy issues, inform debates and tell revealing stories. They know how to find a narrative in those facts. And they have the connections and reputation to get their work published. Beyond that – and this is key -Matt himself has the tenacity to keep this effort going over the long run. The guy just doesn’t give up easily. More power to him, and to Data Ferret.”
–Michele Matassa Flores, Managing Editor, Puget Sound Business Journal, Seattle.
“The public has an insatiable appetite for information about how its tax dollars are being spent each and every day. The Public Data Ferret project provides citizens a grand opportunity to obtain helpful data and critical analysis, traits that are often missing in the public debate these days.” –Gary Graham, Editor, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.
“We live in the age of information overload. And therein lies the utility of Public Data Ferret, where the types of public records that should matter to people – public health reports, consumer alerts, disciplinary records, audits and more – are gleaned from government websites and presented in an easily searchable format. I appreciate that each report is deconstructed into highlights without attempts to sensationalize or editorialize….it’s a great resource for citizens and other journalists.”
–Scott Gutierrez, daily newspaper journalist, Seattle
“Matt’s dedication and commitment to this project has been an inspiration to journalists in our region. His watchdog reporting is hard to do but very important. Matt provides us all with a foundation to do better work. Support for his public service project would extend deep within and beyond our community.”
–Karen Ducey, news photographer, ex-Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“I think this is a fantastic combination of public interest journalism, open data advocacy and judicious and smart data viz work. Not to mention targeted to a very specific, well defined and gradually expanding target audience. A hearty bravo for this work – please support this!
Geoff McGhee, Creative Director for Media and Communications, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University; ex-New York Times
“Essential resource for journalists. We need more of this.”
–Russ Walker, investigative unit producer, KING5-TV, Seattle
“Public Data Ferret is just scratching the surface here in Seattle and is worth more investment. One of the problems we professional journalists have, especially at smaller news outlets, is acquiring data and cleaning it up for meaningful use. Organizations like this one can have a big impact as both a primary source for important information and a distributor of raw material for refinement by others.”
–Chuck Taylor, Assistant City Editor, Everett (Wash.) Daily Herald
“…Rosenberg and Data Ferret have made health data available that would otherwise go unreported. This “signal within noise” work is a great public service. At a time when academic science is struggling with transparency, the Ferret can help build an ecosystem regionally for our science community.”
–Sally James, science writer; Past President, Northwest Science Writers Association, Seattle
“Public Data Ferret takes the language of bureaucracy and turns it into English. Anyone who has ever read an RFP, a legislative proposal or a rule change knows the value of that translation, and its ability to effect change. Public Data Ferret is an outstanding translator, a trained and discerning eye capable of keeping focus on what matters.”
–Susan Kelleher, daily newspaper journalist, Seattle
“In the digital age we are drowning in information and opinion, but there is an urgent need in most communities for facts; the kind of facts that come from government and agency reports and data. Public Data Ferret gives the Seattle community access to the data but also puts it into context providing a rich, unparalleled source of important, actionable information that citizens can use. Public Data Ferret goes the extra mile as well to ensure that the community knows HOW to use the information with trainings, symposiums and panels in addition to writing and reporting on the website. All communities should be as lucky as Seattle to have a resource like Public Data Ferret…”
–Katie King, former Sr. Product Manager, MSN UK; Advisory Board Member, Neiman Foundation at Harvard University; Board Member, The Online News Association; Trustee, Index on Censorship, London, UK.
Public Data Ferret is an invaluable tool and I’m happy to add that practically speaking it’s been immensely helpful as a ‘reality check’ in reporting. More journalists should know about it and avail themselves of its information.
–Francesca Lyman, freelance journalist, Seattle area
“In ‘The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,’ Arthur Dent finds a bulldozer driver unexpectedly arriving to demolish his house for a highway project, who says ‘But Mr. Dent, the plans have been available at the local planning office for the last nine months.’ The argument continues, with Arthur pointing out the absurd search he had to undertake to find the plans ‘…on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.’ Making information publicly available is not the same as publicly accessible. As a “citizen journalist” who values original sources over merely echoing others, I know I can rely on Public Data Ferret to push past the Beware the Leopard sign and make public data publicly accessible.”
–Sue Lani Madsen, architect, rancher, blogger/writer, Eastern Washington state
“Public records are a cornerstone of good civics and civic-minded journalism. As newsrooms in commercial radio, TV and print shrink in Washington State, and reporters are called upon to do more with less, ventures like the Public Data Ferret become critical in communities like Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Teaching students, young journalists and citizens in the community to request, review, share public records – and use them to write about government decisions, programs and spending is critical to the health of local journalism and the entire community. Statehouse bureaus in Olympia Washington have been cut back so much, support for Matt Rosenberg’s Data Ferret project would help revive and nurture government watchdog journalism efforts in Washington and empower citizens to become better watchdogs, too.”
–Andrew McIntosh, Investigations Desk Editor, QMI News Agency -Canada; based in Seattle
“I work for a rural community radio station covering news in Southwest Washington. Public Data Ferret helps stretch the limited resources of a small staff in a sparsely populated area by making public information more accessible to volunteer reporters. Matt Rosenberg has made sure that even the smallest news organizations in the state have access to Public Data Ferret and its community training in public records-based reporting. No other organization that I know of has this kind of potential to help ease Washington’s urban-rural divide.”
–Kathleen Morgain, KMUN Community Radio News, Astoria, Ore., for SW Washington and NW Oregon
“The Public Data Ferret is a public-interest group that regularly uses the state public disclosure laws and the Freedom of Information Act to seek documents of interest to the public. They also teach others to make use of this powerful tool for democracy. Besides the obvious benefits behind public-interest information gathering, there are two very good reasons to (support) this organization..” 1) Each time the public disclosure and freedom-of-information laws are used – especially for wide public interest – our democratic muscles are strengthened. 2) When the public is made more aware of these rights, our news gathering organizations receive more support, and tips.”
–Eric Nalder, Senior Enterprise Reporter, Hearst Newspapers, Seattle area
“We live in a golden age of commentary, in which anybody can express themselves on the web. To the extent these commentaries are based on facts, the facts tend to come from a much smaller group of people, journalists mostly, who are doing real reporting. Sometimes this reporting is glamorous, and most often it isn’t. But it is vital to our democracy, and it must be encouraged. Matt and his dedicated team at Public Data Ferret are doing the hard work of finding facts and discovering stories in public data. This work is impressive and important in its own right, but I think it’s larger value is as a role model to the generation of young people trying to figure out what journalism can be in this new age, and how they can contribute.
“Mining public data may not be glamorous, but it’s impact can be huge. When I think back on the three years I spent as a statehouse reporter for the Seattle Times long ago, the story of mine that stands out as having the most impact was one that involved days of digging at the state Public Disclosure Commission. Back then the Times had two and sometimes (more) full-time reporters in Olympia during legislative sessions, backed up by several other reporters who rotated through. The newspaper could afford deep dives into data, but newsroom budgets don’t allow much of this now–making experiments such as Public Data Ferret quite important. The world is evolving, and Public Data Ferret has an important role to play as we collectively learn our way into the future.”
–Peter Rinearson, founder of Intersect.com, Seattle; digital entrepreneur, ex-Seattle Times reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner
“This is a great project and deserves support. Public Data Ferret goes beyond exposing key government information. It makes sense of that information for the public.”
–David Herzog, founder/project manager Open Missouri.org; Associate Professor, University of Missouri; board member, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting; ex-Providence Journal
“As a citizen journalist who is often time and resource-strapped when it comes to gathering data, Matt Rosenberg should be commended for his work on the Public Data Ferret, a site that should be high on bookmarks of policymakers and reporters alike. In particular, the ability to “see” data in a ways that invite me to make connections that would not otherwise be self-evident is invaluable for the ultimate goal of us all — rooting out the source of problems and using the data to brainstorm better solutions.”
–Bryan Myrick, founder/Editor, Northwest Daily Marker, Seattle region
“Matt Rosenberg and Public Data Ferret are an incredibly valuable resource in the Pacific Northwest. I serve on the board of Responsible Choices, an organization that is seeking to educate the public about state ballot initiatives and how, too often, they have become tools of out-of-state corporations and wealthy individuals to further their own narrow interests. Organizations like Public Data Ferret that help the public understand what is going on around them are essential to keep our democracy and our economy healthy. It takes dedication and determination to unearth, interpret and publicize supposedly public information to empower the public. Matt Rosenberg and Public Data Ferret have a track record of creativity and effectiveness.”
–Jane Hadley, former reporter, Seattle Post-Intelligencer; board member, Responsible Choices, Seattle.
“When I met Matt about 20 years ago, I was impressed by his dogged pursuit of data that, while technically available to the public, was often buried under a mound of seemingly impenetrable bureaucracy. Now he is taking it to the next level, using the Public Data Ferret platform. It’s as though he’s upgraded from digging with a shovel to moving dirt with a bulldozer.”
–Marc Stiles, reporter, Puget Sound Business Journal, Seattle
“I think the Public Data Ferret has become a great resource and an important part of the news community in the Seattle area. Matt Rosenberg is an excellent reporter, editor and data-mining expert, and he’s got the good sense to teach other journalists how to find what they need out there in the many websites and public records data files. Public Data Ferret is really deserving of funding for the future, because he’s not only doing this work for himself, he’s doing it for the entire Pacific Northwest community.”
–DeAnn Rossetti, community journalist, editor, Seattle area
“Matt and his team at Public Data Ferret are filling a void left by the changing world of journalism. As a writer, I depend upon good sources for data and information on a daily basis. If we are truly “all reporters” now, we need factual information gathering and interpretation entities like Public Data Ferret. And even more importantly, we need people to do this work who have integrity and strong ethics. Matt fills this role and should be supported.”
–Jordan Royer, public affairs professional, writer, Seattle area
“I’m a news reporter with 30 years of experience, mostly with traditional newspapers. I recently had to reinvent myself as a freelance news reporter, working with papers, news Web sites and magazines. The Public Data Ferret helps combat a fast-growing gap in public watchdog reporting. Unfortunately, much of today’s journalism targets quick and easy stories because of shrinking staffs and slashed budgets. Most news organization are drifting away from digging through documents because it is time-consuming and unglamorous. Consequently, news is falling through the gaps that beat reporters would have routinely picked up a decade ago. Public Data Ferret has been finding documents and publishing stories on government misdeeds that the rest of the Puget Sound media has been missing. Meanwhile, it’s outreach programs have taught ordinary people to better search for and use public documents – a fledgling direction with much potential for good in 21st century journalism. This is a venture that should be nurtured.”
–John Stang, former longtime reporter with the Tri-Cities (Wash.) Herald, now a freelancer working with several Puget Sound news operations, Seattle area
“The Ferret published a nice scoop recently, about King County’s payouts to bus crash victims, and others. Matt’s patient, systematic research serves a crucial need that’s harder for standard newspapers to tackle as we get stretched thinner.”
–Mike Lindblom, transportation writer, The Seattle Times (Public Data Ferret news partner)
“I met Matt Rosenberg about two years ago in the context of Journalism That Matters and our paths have intersected a number of times since then. It has been great to watch Public Data Ferret develop and grow in that time. Matt’s devotion and energy around developing this project have been remarkable, and he has created the framework to give his ideas real life. But most importantly, he started with the right idea. Marrying journalistic standards and perspective to the mining of public data, particularly government data and records, is important, timely work that provides a genuine service in a time of declining journalistic resources. I spent 15 years in newspapers as a writer and editor (including a dozen years at the LA Times) and have been working in online media since 1997, chiefly for MSN. I am currently a senior online program manager at Microsoft. I give that background because the reason I’m excited about Public Data Ferret is the smart and resourceful application of technology to a classic journalistic mission.”
–Rick VanderKnyff, Senior Online Program Manager, Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.; former writer and editor, L.A. Times.
“Matt’s awakening to the wealth of information available in digital forms was before most. His commitment to shedding light on matters of public import coupled with a keen eye for uncovering data online have been an inspiration to me, and others as well. But what he does—digging up stories from data that can be arcane at best—is something not done by many, yet carries great social value. Not only can the reporting of PDF benefit the communities it covers, but it serves as hallmark example of the power of an informed (and digitally connected!) public!”
–Andrew Hart, Associate Producer, Ora TV, “Larry King Now”
“My experience with (Public Eye Northwest) has left me thoroughly impressed. The idea is so very simple, but novel for reasons that escape me. There should have been something like this before; that’s how you know the man behind the concept is exceptionally clever and inventive. Data Ferret appears to be growing at a healthy clip and is becoming increasingly useful to gatekeepers in the media and policy crafters. I can’t wait to see how the project evolves when the new staff is brought aboard.”
–Alex Sutherland, photo-journalist, video producer/editor
“I’ve been running an open-government community blog for five years covering…the City of Redmond, Lake Washington School District, and Evergreen (Public) Hospital. Public requests have been my primary source for ‘inside information,’ but this takes time and effort and you don’t always get the specific information you request. When Matt came out with Public Data Ferret a couple years ago I found the tool I needed to search for specific information without having to do multiple requests. The Ferret has also been an excellent resource to find story topics and information to build stories and report unique news unaware to other media. One of my frequent contributors….scrutinizes her information sources to glean information for her authoritative reports on neighborhood traffic, land use projects, school projects, county GMA issues, local flood plains, and local geologic history. When I told her about the Ferret she was ecstatic about it’s research capabilities and has added it to her armamentarium. The Ferret is on my site in two places. I’m the #1 ‘Neighborhood Blog’ on Google searches and want everyone to know how Matt’s engine digs and digs for news that really counts! Thanks, Matt!”
–Bob Yoder, Founder, Publisher, Editor, Redmond Neighborhood Blog, Redmond, Wash.
“Public Data Ferret has been showing up frequently, as a community partner, at the Seattle Times website. Matt Rosenberg does a lot of the work that investigative reporters used to do, with that news organization. Having known him from the days when he was a columnist with the Op-ed page of the Times, I know he goes after the stories others won’t – or can’t. His ability to dig out public records information is what separates his work from others.”
–Terry Parkhurst, freelance writer, Seattle
“Public Data Ferret is an ambitious idea with a lot of enthusiasm and energy behind it. Matt recognizes the importance of public information, and he also has the pragmatic smarts to know that a data dump is not, by itself, great journalism. I predict this project will be a valuable asset to engage citizens in Seattle and environs for many years to come.”
–Kenneth F. Bunting, Executive Director, National Freedom of Information Coalition, Columbia, Missouri.
“As president of Washington Coalition for Open Government, I attest to the value of the work done by Matt Rosenberg and Public Data Ferret. The raw data provided by government agencies is useless without a way to analyze and interpret it. Sometimes agencies seem to relish burying records requesters in huge piles of data and daring them to make something intelligible out of it! Public Data Ferret is a great example of how big data sets can be made useful when approached with the right tools, skills, and experience — including a nose for news and insight into what is likely to be meaningful. Whether Public Data Ferret is scaled nationwide itself or becomes a model to be replicated nationwide, it deserves funding and support to prove that it is viable business model for government oversight by citizens.”
–Toby Nixon, President, Washington Coalition for Open Government
“I met Matt on a panel at the WA Coalition for Open Government Sunshine conference and was just astounded by the amazing work he’s done with Public Data Ferret to make access to public records just a click away for the public. Not only has he taken the leg work and hassle out of finding records but he’s made them easily understandable through his insightful editorial comments. Keep up the great work Matt!”
–Carl Hu, board member, Washington Coalition for Open Government
“I’ve known Matt since (I was in) high school – more than a decade ago – and I can tell you that he’s always been an inspiration for young journalists. Throughout my college years as an op-ed contributor to The Seattle Times and later as a newspaper reporter for The Everett Herald and The Fresno (Calif.) Bee, it’s been a privilege to call Matt a mentor and a friend. And now Matt is showing us why journalism is such a powerful and important craft in our society: Public Eye Northwest and the ever-digging Public Data Ferret are great examples of how innovative ways of discovering and presenting the news can compliment and enhance existing forms of journalism. I expect that PEN will continue to be a clear example of how journalism can thrive in the 21st Century.”
–Chris Collins, former Fresno Bee reporter; Executive Director of West African Vocational Schools, Fresno, Calif.
“The Ferret increases public understanding and awareness, making government more transparent and accessible. Matt does a great job of translating and communicating the information people need to make informed decisions. By supporting the Public Data Ferret (donors) will be investing in a creative and essential new model for public involvement and open government.”
–Richard Davis, President, Washington Research Council, Olympia, Wash.
“I learned about Public Data Ferret in 2010, at a Journalism That Matters gathering in Seattle. I was impressed with the concept and scope of the Data Ferret as a Gov 2.0 project and took the idea with me back to my home base, Scranton, PA. I was part of a media policy group working on the Knight Commission on Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy objectives and I found the Data Ferret to be a prime example of a Commission objective of creating projects for better access to and accountability of local government. I have given two presentations in Scranton on digital media, communities and information and both times included Data Ferret has a ‘best practices’ example.”
–Jessica Durkin, Scranton, Penn.; Founder, InOtherNews.us; 2010 New America Foundation Media Policy Initiative fellow; Communicator, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Pennsylvania
“Matt has created an excellent public resource in Public Data Ferret, creating more transparency and therefore potential for accountability and public involvement in government. He is taking complex, often difficult to find information, and making it readily available and easy to understand. By making good information more available, he is making it easier for people to participate in government in a way that fosters greater trust. With more capacity he could have a greater impact in the community and raise the profile of this great resource.”
–Jessica Jones, program manager, City Club, Seattle
“This is a great project that has already accomplished a lot in the Pacific Northwest to engage citizens with their government. Kudos to Matt Rosenberg and his innovative Public Data Ferret effort!”
–John Hamer, founder/Executive Director, Washington News Council
“As the financial challenges facing the traditional news media continue to decrease the amount of reporting resources devoted to the coverage of government at all levels, the development and growth of innovative tools like the Public Data Ferret become even more important to ensuring that government remains open, accessible and accountable. Not only does does the Public Data Ferret facilitate more attention paid to government from both traditional and new media, but it also gives the public direct access to this information in a way that is intuitive and easily understood. Matt and Public Eye Northwest have provided a model that should be supported…and replicated around the country.”
–Greg Lane, President, Washington Public Affairs Network (TVW), Olympia, Wash.
“I turned to Matt Rosenberg of Public Data Ferret for help in organizing a panel discussion, ‘Open Government: Future,’ for the Washington Coalition for Open Government conference in Seattle in March, 2012. Not only did Rosenberg recruit an all-star panel for the program, he also made an outstanding presentation that clearly and concisely explained how ordinary citizens can use technology to make government data accessible and understandable. This program was the first step in building a partnership between two non-profits dedicated to the goal of accountable and accessible government, the foundation of democracy.”
–Patience Rogge, Events Committee, Washington Coalition for Open Government, Western Washington state.
“Coaxing, cajoling and – if necessary – bullying bureaucracies into putting public records online where the public can actually get them is only part of the challenge. Public Data Ferret is the other half of the equation. Matt Rosenberg’s initiative is perhaps the best example that exists of making that mountain of data usable to the consumer of news. It takes the eye of experienced journalists to digest that information, filter out the noise, and produce nuggets of information that impact the lives of readers, a.k.a. news. Scholar and researchers need the raw data for their work — and so do journalists.”
–Bill Will, Executive Director, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, Seattle area
“I started working with Matt on his Public Data Ferret as a volunteer. I got fascinated by the new data trend in journalism now happening in United States, even across the world. The media is always looking for approaches to presenting the information in more meaningful ways and digging deeper into the information that government reveals but seldom makes sense to the public. I am thrilled to see Public Data Ferret is actually carrying on this important responsibility, and leveraging the power of its community base. Though I am a foreign student without any knowledge of journalism, I have been given the opportunity to work closely with Matt and his community that broadens my horizon and skill set. I’d love to see more people join the momentum of open government.”
–Danning Chen, former graduate student in public police, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
“Much effort has been put into making government more transparent, and the success of this effort is apparent in the amount of information that is now publicly accessible. Just because something is visible, however, does not mean that it is seen. Once upon a time, beat reporters did the heavy lifting that made the visible seen, but in recent years cutbacks in funding have reduced the number of beat reporters available for this work, and editorial bias (both real and perceived) has caused average citizens to wonder whether they’re getting all the information they really need. Public Data Ferret fills an important niche in this changing ecosystem. It provides links to numerous sources of public data, highlights important information, and provides short, no-nonsense summaries. For readers, it serves as an important supplement (and occasional corrective) to traditional media. For pundits, it serves as an excellent source of idea fodder, especially for stories with local relevance and appeal. In short, it has become for public data what news aggregators are for the media.”
–Nathan Azinger, student, martial arts instructor, Canada.
“I encountered Public Data Ferret by following through on links to two different subjects that I am particularly familiar with: a report on a scientific analysis of costs and benefits in cancer treatments and an investigative journalism piece on the awarding of course credits at universities. In both cases, Public Data Ferret (PDF) had mined available online information (scientific articles and audit reports, respectively), followed up with investigation of the public information, and translated the information into language understandable to the general reader. There’s a vast array of information on the Internet that is of critical interest to the public and a corresponding great need for someone to uncover and make accessible that information in an unbiased way. I think PDF has made substantial inroads in this process.”
–B. Jagadeesh, ex-graduate student, researcher, Seattle area
“I attended a workshop on Public Data Ferret…at WSU and was immediately impressed by what this organization does. There needs to be more organizations like it. Groups like this are key to maintaining government transparency and I hope that one day Public Data Ferret can cover all of Washington. With funding and the help of student interns, maybe it could also expand to cover the entire nation. America needs more services like this.”
–Emily Smudde, former communications student at Washington State University, Pullman, Wash.
“In many ways, my experience at Public Data Ferret shaped my internship at the Washington Post; I fearlessly tackled data-heavy stories, handling studies and documents that required me to use the same skills I developed this summer. The work published at Public Data Ferret embodies traditional journalism in the new media context, setting it ahead of the curve when it comes to online reporting.”
–Melissa Steffan, Seattle Pacific University, Class of 2012; Public Data Ferret editorial intern, summer 2011; reporting intern, “On Leadership” and “Innovations” Web sites at The Washington Post, Sept.-Dec. 2011.
“I love the work of the Data Ferret – interesting stories that I usually don’t see in the mainstream media. Great use of data as well.”
–Ellie Fields, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Tableau Software, Seattle
“This is a great idea. Matt has been committed to this type of open journalism project for many years and I am excited to see the next iteration of it. Go Matt!”
–Martin Tobias, technology entrepreneur, Seattle
“The Public Eye Northwest network and the Public Data Ferret, in particular, have been great assets to Seattle and we owe a lot of thanks to Matt Rosenberg for founding this organization and promoting the cause of open government and greater civic engagement. In my discussions with Matt, I have been very impressed by his passion for digging through public records and his relentless drive for greater government transparency and public awareness on civic matters. So I look forward to his continued efforts at building a news knowledge base that leverages public data.”
–Ram Arumugan, entrepreneur, programmer, iPhone apps, Seattle area.
“As a former journalist and news director, I know some of the hardest work in reporting is digging through, and making sense of, public records. It’s challenging, time-consuming and frequently futile — but when it does pay off in deeper insights, the public benefits. I think Matt Rosenberg’s Public Data Ferret effort deserves a lot of credit for taking on this unglamorous but important work, and deserves any support he can get to extend it so it’s even more publicly accessible.”
–Frank Catalano, consulting tech strategist, analyst and author, Seattle area
“Public Data Ferret, under Matt Rosenberg’s vision and guidance, provides a much-needed public service by bringing hidden public documents to light in a neutral, objective forum. It provides a valuable complement to other news sources, both print and digital, in the Seattle area, and offers insights into the workings of our government that would be difficult to obtain in any other way. Matt has managed to build the service on a shoestring budget through his tireless networking and engagement with the community he serves; this is a great example of how to integrate information with a network to serve the public good. An infusion of money and support for this effort would allow further expansion of the network and content of the service, and keep a much-needed part of the information landscape healthy and thriving in Seattle and surrounding areas.”
–Mike Crandall, Senior Lecturer and Chair, Master of Science in Information Management Program, The Information School, University of Washington
“The work that Matt and his team do in translating government data into understandable nuggets and analysis is hugely important to civil society. Journalism will continue to undergo dramatic shifts, leaving us with fewer reporters assigned to tracking the inner workings of government. In order to really understand and track public policy, you have to pay attention to the data and the details and then explain them in ways that average readers/voters can understand. Matt does a beautiful job of this, providing something that is completely missing in so much of our he said/she said partisan-driven political/government coverage. I also love that Matt is working with young, upcoming journalists in ways that can excite them to continue to do important work that matters.”
–Monica Harrington, Seattle. Technology Entrepreneur; Co-Chair, Washington Women for Choice; Board Member Emeritus, Code for America
“I’ve worked in the Government 2.0 space and helped bring the Code for America project to Seattle. There are a lot fuzzy ideas in this space but Matt and his team have put together something of real value.”
–Brett Horvath, technology and community engagement innovator, Seattle
“Public Data Ferret is exactly the kind of supporting technology that we need to keep government publicly accountable. As budgets for news organizations shrink in the face of competition for advertisers from Google, Facebook and Craigslist, they will need to rely on other organizations to do the legwork that was once the responsibility of cub reporters. Much better to have assistance from a non-partisan group like PDF than depending on a steady stream of press releases from agenda-driven organizations. Matt has the right mix of news and community experience, leavened with government contacts, to drive this effort.”
–Andrew MacDonald, software developer, Redmond, Wash.
“Public Data Ferret is creating and archiving a tremendous resource of reader-friendly material with the lofty goal of creating a well-informed electorate. As a former elected official, I value the work Matt and his team are doing to make factual, easy-to-read information about activities at all levels of government a reality. As issues addressed by governments become more complex, a commitment to transparency and accountability is becoming increasingly important to representative government and Public Data Ferret is doing a great job shining a light on current events in a way that is readily accessible.”
–Renee Radcliffe Sinclair, Seattle area. Former state legislator, technology industry executive
“Matt Rosenberg and Public Data Ferret are performing a very important public service, made all the more important by the closure of Seattle’s second major newspaper.I believe he is creating a model that has possibilities nationally.”
–Jan Hendrickson, Denny Hill Capital, Seattle; and community volunteer