YSU frees the files

From 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in a basement computer lab of DeBartolo Hall, students, faculty and community members helped “Free the Files” to expose political ad spending in Ohio.

The information was previously gathered through ProPublica, an independent nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism. However, the Free the Files phase of the project organizes the data into a searchable database.

Tim Francisco, co-director of The News Outlet, said interns and volunteers have already started, and they’ve freed about 200 files so far.

“This database is going to show who is spending the money on the political ads and exactly how much money they are spending,” Francisco said.

TV stations are required by law to keep political ad buys on record, but they’re not required to post this information online. Therefore, the only way to retrieve information on these political ads is to get the record from the station in person.

Free the Files will solve that problem by making this information accessible to the public by doing the legwork.

“Our goal is to enter as much information about each political ad to complete the database. This way, we can make Ohio transparent,” Francisco said. “If we want to know how much Josh Mandel spent on political ads, it’s right there.”

Volunteers are most interested in organizing the following information: the cost of each ad, the person or group that funded the ad and the advertising agency that produced the ad.

“This is important because the citizens want to know where their tax dollars are going,” Francisco said.

“This will show them particularly who is spending the money and how much. It’s good for the transparency of Ohio.”