San Diego Unified’s decision to start deleting emails older than a year could be worse. The district had, after all, considered deleting them after six months.
That doesn’t mean it’s a good decision. It’s bad.
Emails are often the foundation on which many investigative stories are built. They’re so critical to how public business is conducted that earlier this year, the California Supreme Court ruled that even emails sent from an official’s private email address should be made public if they relate to public business.
But when Ashly McGlone posted her story on the district’s new policy, a reader on Reddit charmingly and respectfully questioned the value of public officials’ emails:
Remember when investigative journalists actually covered serious shit that people cared about? Corruption, deception, bribery, fraud, dangerous crimes. Instead of tattletales about school secretaries that deleted emails. … The “voice of san diego” would rather report on deleted emails that NO ONE cares about and will physically affect NO ONE. Such a joke.
Excellent use of scare quotes aside, this is hilariously ignorant of how reporting works, as email records are often the exact reason journalists are able to uncover corruption, bribery, fraud and dangerous crimes.
McGlone enlisted folks on Twitter to share some of the best stories revealed using public email records. Our staff alone has produced some really memorable ones, like the time a FieldTurf salesman tried to offer a kickback to an Oceanside school official, the time city officials lied about why they installed jagged rocks to deter the homeless, the time SANDAG officials freaked out when they discovered a huge problem with Measure A (but proceeded to mislead voters anyway) or the time a school board member demanded special treatment for her son.