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FOI FYI: SPJ’s FOI Committee Blog
– Must read FOI stories – 7/25/14
– Must read FOI stories – 7/18/14
– FOIA should be proactive, not reactive

FOI Committee
This committee is the watchdog of press freedoms across the nation. It relies upon a network of volunteers in each state organized under Project Sunshine. These SPJ members are on the front lines for assaults to the First Amendment and when lawmakers attempt to restrict the public's access to documents and the government's business. The committee often is called upon to intervene in instances where the media is restricted.

Freedom of Information Committee Chair

David Cuillier
Director and Associate Professor
School of Journalism
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Work: 520-626-9694
Email
@DavidCuillier
Bio (click to expand) David Cuillier, Ph.D., is director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where he researches and teaches access to public records, and is co-author with Charles Davis of "The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records." He served as FOI chair 2007-11 before becoming a national officer and serving as SPJ president in 2013-14.

Before entering academia, he was a newspaper reporter and editor in the Pacific Northwest. He has testified before Congress on FOI issues twice and provides newsroom training in access on behalf of SPJ. His long-term goal is to see a unified coalition of journalism organizations fighting for press freedom and funded through an endowed FOI war chest.

Home > Freedom of Information > Awards > Black Hole Award

Awards
The Black Hole Award



Previous ‘winners’

2013
— Oklahoma State University
Read about 2013's ‘winner’

2012
— The Georgia Legislature’s 2008 law and 2011 amendments to that law providing tax credits for private schools
— Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services
— Wisconsin State Legislature
Read about 2012's ‘winners’

2011
— Utah the darkest pit in the United States
— Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services: Hiding Child Deaths
— University of Maryland: Pricing People out of their Government
— Fairfax County Police Department: Hiding the Killers of Unarmed Citizens
— Central Intelligence Agency and A.G. Eric Holder: Flagrant Destruction of Embarrassing Records
— Broward County, Fla., School Board: Inaccurate Records
Read about 2011's ‘winners’

The Society of Professional Journalists launched the Black Hole Award to highlight the most heinous violations of the public's right to know.

By exposing such abuses, SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee seeks to educate the public about their rights and call attention to those who would interfere with openness and transparency.


Nomination criteria

Black Hole Award nominations should meet the following criteria:

1. Violation, in spirit or letter, of any federal or state open-government law. This means either a clear violation of the statute governing access to public records or public meetings, or using an ambiguity or loophole in the law to avoid having to comply with the law. For example: conducting multiple meetings with small groups that do not constitute a quorum, email discussions outside the public view, or charging unreasonable amounts to copy documents.

2. Egregiousness. In order to maintain the effectiveness of the Black Hole Award, it should not be given for just any openness violation. Recipients should know they are trampling on the public’s right, placing personal or political interests ahead of the public good or endangering public welfare. Examples might include an agency or official who attempted to keep information secret to avoid embarrassment or hide misdeeds.

3. Impact. The case should be one that affects the public rather than an individual. The award should not be used to settle vendettas against recalcitrant bureaucrats. Withholding information should hurt the general public rather than an individual.

SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee welcomes nominations from local SPJ chapters, SPJ members, other journalists and private citizens.

Nominations should include, where possible, supporting documentation. Documentation can include any of the following:

— News coverage of the violation.
— Public records chronicling the dispute.
— Legal papers if there was a lawsuit or other legal action involved in the matter.
— Any expert opinion from an attorney, official or open-government expert that the violation occurred.
— Contact information for the parties involved to allow the committee to obtain more information if needed, including from the government official.


How to submit your nomination

Please email nominations to FOI Committee member Mike Farrell, or mail to:

Mike Farrell, Ph.D.
Director, Scripps Howard First Amendment Center
School of Journalism and Telecommunications
144 Grehan Building
Lexington, KY 40506-0042

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