By ALEX FRUIN
It happens all the time to journalists — their interest is peaked with the desire to research a story—and then they quickly find themselves in front of the computer, unable to think about where to even begin their information search.
In the not-so-distant past, I found myself in this very situation, looking for health code rules and violations for Coral Gables restaurants. Unable to find data on the restaurants on neither the City of Coral Gables nor the Miami Dade County websites, I eventually discovered an important government website that every Floridian — reporter or not — should know about.
MyFlorida.com—I’m sure you see it every day on countless numbers of license plates throughout your travels, but have you ever been online to access the vast amount of information it offers?
From the homepage itself, visitors of the site can immediately cut out the hours of searching for the proper agency by clicking on the Find an Agency link which provides websites and contact information for a number of South Florida organizations. This page also offers quick access to any website of a particular county or city, an important tool to rely upon when attempting to write a story that includes areas of which a journalist isn’t fully aware.
What I found the most useful for my specific research purposes, however, was the page that allows for all different types of license searches. Until you sit down and begin your search, you most likely won’t realize just how many licenses each organization and business in the state of Florida is required to hold to function legally. The license page will offer you all different types of licenses that have been approved, revoked, or are pending authorization; from alcohol and tobacco sales to building and construction—and even a miscellaneous category — if it’s licensed by the state, this is where you’ll find it.
Although originally I thought my search for health code violations for Coral Gables restaurants would be a simple one, I quickly realized just how many different food establishments I would have to consider. From street vendors and vending machines to five-star restaurants and dive bars, everything can be found by clicking on a link that takes you to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, an entirely separate website that can be accessed from MyFlorida in just a few clicks.
With more than half a dozen options for licenses searches for food establishments, you can only begin to imagine the amount of data that the MyFlorida website can offer you when researching stories that fall anywhere within the state government’s jurisdiction, thus making it the perfect place to begin just about any research project!