In EXPOSÉ’s “In a Small Town,” a court clerk and an anonymous source lead reporter Peter Zuckerman to sealed court cases documenting past sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America.

Other papers have examined court records and discovered instances of potentially improper sealing. For example, the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL found sealed cases involving powerful people, dangerous products, the sexual abuse of minors, sometimes even the judges’ own friends and relatives. Journalists need to access those files to find out the facts that allow them to report responsibly. Some, including Poynter.org’s Al Tompkins, argue that sealing cases violates the public’s right to know, and that “open courts are a bedrock principle worth defending.”

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press also published some tips for reporters covering sealed cases.

Carrie Ching

Carrie Ching is an award-winning, independent multimedia journalist and producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. For six years, she led digital storytelling projects at the Center for Investigative Reporting as senior multimedia producer. Her multimedia reports have been featured by NPR.org, The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, Grist, Time.com, Fast Company, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, KQED, PBS NewsHour, Salon.com, Mother Jones, Public Radio International, Poynter, Columbia Journalism Review and many other publications. Her specialty is crafting digital narratives and exploring ways to use video, audio, photography, animation and interactive graphics to push the boundaries of storytelling on the Web, tablets and mobile. Her work has been honored with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Best of the West, the Online News Association, Scripps Howard, The Gracies, and was part of the entry in a Pulitzer-finalist project. Prior to her time at CIR she was a magazine and book editor, video journalist, newspaper reporter and TV comedy scriptwriter. She was on the 2010 Eddie Adams Workshop faculty as a multimedia producer working with MediaStorm to teach digital storytelling techniques to photojournalists. She completed a master’s degree in journalism at UC Berkeley in 2005.