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Open Doors: Accessing Government Records
FOI Basics
FOI and the Courts
FOI and Privacy
FOI and Your Life
FOI and Daily News Coverage
Red Flags
FOI A to Z
Purchase a Copy

Freedom of Information
Covering Prisons
Project Sunshine: Find FOI Help
Accessing Government Records
Shield Law Campaign
FOI Audit Tookit | PDF
Anti-SLAPP: Protect Free Speech
Official Secrets Act bill
FOI Groups
Annual FOI Reports
FOI Committee Roster

FOI FYI: SPJ’s FOI Committee Blog
Show why FOI matters
FOI Win in Georgia: Defamation Law Repealed
The flow of information: Reporting on water in the west

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

Jonathan Anderson
Public issues investigative reporter
Marshfield News-Herald
Marshfield, Wisc.
Phone: 920-676-5399
Bio (click to expand) picture Jonathan Anderson is a public issues investigative reporter for the Marshfield News-Herald in Marshfield, Wisconsin. Before joining the News-Herald, in 2015, Jonathan was a reporter for a pair of newspapers in northern Wisconsin for nearly two years. He has held internships at the First Amendment Center, Wisconsin Law Journal, Wisconsin Public Radio and WISN-TV, and was also editor in chief of his college newspaper, the UWM Post.

Jonathan is an avid requester of public records, and his work in the FOI arena has also entailed advocacy and research. He has been the plaintiff in two lawsuits challenging improper government secrecy. He helped obtain a legal opinion from the Wisconsin attorney general that found University of Wisconsin System student government groups subject to the state’s open meetings law. His master’s thesis, “Resolving Public Records Disputes in Wisconsin: The Role of the Attorney General's Office,” investigated how the Wisconsin attorney general reviews and sometimes intervenes in access disputes. And he has volunteered for the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

Home > Freedom of Information > Open Doors > Red Flags

Mentor Match-up
Introduction | FOI Basics | FOI and the Courts | FOI and Privacy | FOI and Your Life
FOI and Daily News Coverage | Red Flags | FOI A to Z | Resources | Purchase a Copy

Red Flags

You Know you Have a Problem With FOI When:

A privacy coalition forms in your community or your state, perhaps in advance of an upcoming legislative session.

Newspapers receive a wave of letters or commentaries calling for more protection of personal privacy.

An elected official – governor, attorney general, legislator – calls for a special task force to address public access to government information. (NOTE: Such studies may be required by the law and, even if they aren’t, can be very productive in improving FOI laws and policies. However, FOI advocates should insist that their viewpoint is represented on any commission and that the leadership is not biased toward an anti-access view.)

A government agency announces a new policy to close certain records or institute new procedures for requesting records.

A government entity attempts to muzzle frequent “gadflies” or critics.

A judge suddenly closes a court proceeding and orders all observers out. (NOTE: Remember that courts are not subject to open meetings laws. However, any time a court proceeding is closed, journalists should make sure the judge has followed procedure and explain the rules surrounding courtroom closures to the public. The media also should be active in challenging courtroom closures that they believe are unwarranted or improper.)

Government files, which had been available, suddenly become unavailable.

A government employee wants to know “why you want” information or records.

A government agency increases the price of copies or duplication.

A government agency (or a local government) purchases a new computer system that stores information in a new format. (A format incompatible with yours.)

Meetings of deliberative bodies are held without notice.

Regularly scheduled meetings are re-scheduled to new times.

Meetings are held without printed agendas.

A government council, committee, or other decision-making body holds frequent “executive sessions” without fully explaining why.

Minutes from meetings are not available.

Your local television station or newspaper does a big “Don’t Let This Happen to You” story warning about potential violations of people’s privacy.

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