Journalists vacuum up all kinds of information when they work on a story. Many times the interesting documents we’ve gathered end up in filing cabinets, forgotten, as we move on to the next thing.
In his guide Journalism 2.0, Mark Briggs argues that the modern age of the Internet emphasizes sharing — not hiding — information. And if newspapers are going to thrive, we need to open up our filing cabinets and share our primary documents with our readers.
So when I found an old CD of Vietnam-era records that we used to write a story about George W. Bush, his time in the National Guard, and the young men in Houston who were in Bush’s local draft board and ended up getting drafted, I thought to myself, someone might find these documents valuable. Let’s put them online.
Fernando Ortiz, the online producer for MySA.com, rescurrected the story by me and Scott Stroud, who is now political editor at the Express-News. The story about Bush and Vietnam was Stroud’s idea. He wondered, can we figure out who got drafted in Bush’s place and went to Vietnam? What do the men listed with Bush as potential draftees think about him serving in the National Guard and escaping combat duty?
Today, Ortiz posted the draft-board documents with our story on our Military City page. And maybe the next time a student or a researcher googles about Bush and Vietnam, our story will pop up with the raw documentation that is now out in the open, and not hidden in a filing cabinet.