Public Source to host educational session about obtaining public data

Written By Matt Petras, Co-News Editor

This Thursday evening, the non-profit news outlet Public Source will put on a “Citizen’s Toolkit” at the Center for Media Innovation (CMI), an event the organization hopes will give attendees valuable tools for obtaining public data.

The event costs $25 for standard customers, $20 for Public Source subscribers and $5 for Point Park students. The event is scheduled from 6:00-7:30 p.m.

“What you’re taking away are skills that you’ll keep for a long time,” said Roman Benty, an intern with Public Source since May. Benty, a fiction writing and urban studies major at the University of Pittsburgh, took the lead on organizing the event.

The organizers are hoping attendees reach out to explain what information they would like to learn how to obtain. The Eventbrite page for the “Citizen’s Toolkit” already teases help finding information about houses for sale, neighborhood safety, city official salaries and cleanliness reports on local restaurants.

“Do you want to eat at a restaurant that isn’t particularly clean?” said Eric Holmberg, a 29 year-old reporter who has been with Public Source for around two years. Holmberg will be the one giving the presentation at the event, in which he will lecture and take questions from the audience.

“The point of the class is to inform people on Pittsburgh who want to be civically engaged,” Holmberg said. Thus, Public Source is looking to field a general audience, Holmberg said.

“We want to give you a good starting point to follow all year long,” Holmberg said.

Benty was looking for places to host the event and eventually landed on the CMI. One of the main reasons is that its position in Downtown Pittsburgh is a good central location, he said. There was also a meeting of minds when he reached out to Andrew Conte, director of the CMI.

Conte said in an interview that the event is in line with what the CMI wants to do.

Most events at the CMI are free to attend. The only other event with an admission fee was sold out, according to Conte.

On Monday afternoon, the Eventbrite page for Public Source’s upcoming event listed nine people who have already purchased tickets.

Public Source has been around since late 2011 and focuses on Pennsylvania. As a nonprofit organization, they are funded by various grants and foundations, such as The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Fund for Investigative Reporting, according to their website.

One recent project from the organization was a series called “The Aftermath of Murder.” This series covered the unsolved homicides in Pittsburgh, which disproportionally affected the black community.

This “class,” as Holmberg calls it, is part of a larger goal from Public Source to be more than just a home for reporting and news coverage, but also a personable aide to its readers as citizens.

“We’re people,” Benty said. “We want to engage with you and we want you to engage with us.”