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David Burnham made his mark as a New York Timesreporter in the late sixties with a story about "cooping cops"—the then-widespread practice of New York City police officers sleeping on duty. The story ran on the front page of the Times,along with photographs of three Brooklyn patrol cars, each containing two snoozing officers. "This was a good chunk of the patrol force on duty at that time and they were sleeping," says the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications professor. "It was sort of an accepted thing that from about 2 to 4:30 a.m. you could disappear. There was a surge in the fear of crime at that time—I got a huge response to that story."
      A lawyer friend soon suggested the same thing was happening in city courts. Since taking photos of judges in their chambers was not possible, the lawyer suggested Burnham compare the number of cases disposed of on Tuesdays through Thursdays with those handled on Mondays and Fridays. "I went and got those numbers, and you could see the courts were working three days a week," Burnham says. "And there were thousands of people awaiting trial." He confronted the courts' dumbfounded chief judge with the numbers and wrote another significant story. "As a reporter I have always looked at the performance of agencies," he says. "It seems to me this is a very important role for newspapers to play."
      Burnham, along with School of Management Professor Susan Long and a team of SU undergraduate and graduate students, makes records of federal enforcement and regulatory agencies' activities available at the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The SU research center, which Burnham and Long established in 1989, provides comprehensive government information to news organizations, public interest groups, businesses, scholars, and lawyers. Even Congress has used TRAC's unique services.
      In April, Burnham and Long testified before the Senate Finance Committee, presenting evidence that the Internal Revenue Service was unable to keep track of its criminal enforcement activities. "That's not just sloppy bookkeeping," Burnham says. "That's an agency out of control. You have to have the IRS, but it has to work well, have good oversight, and not be allowed to just do anything it wants to do." The hearing preceded Senate debate over restructuring the IRS in light of mismanagement and taxpayer abuse. President Clinton signed an IRS reform bill in July.

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Main Home Page Fall 1998 Issue Contents
Chancellor's Message Opening Remarks In Basket
Honors MacArthur Fellow On TRAC
The SU List Lacrosse Legend Report Card
Quad Angles Campaign News Student Center
Faculty Focus Research Report Alumni News/Notes
View From The Hill University Place

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