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Home > Publications > SPJ Leads > FOIA foul-ups and Independence Day

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SPJ Leads | 7/5/2007
FOIA foul-ups and Independence Day


By Stephanie M. Kanowitz
SPJ Member
Web Editor, Federal Computer Week magazine

FOIA FOIBLES. Freedom of Information Act requests filed almost 20 years ago are still pending, according to the Knight Open Government Survey released July 2 by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. In January, the archive filed FOIA requests with 87 federal agencies for copies of their 10 oldest open or pending requests. Five agencies — the State Department, Air Force, CIA and the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and FBI — reported FOIA requests that have been pending for at least 15 years, according to the report.

Other findings include:

• Ten agencies misreported their oldest pending FOIA requests to Congress in their fiscal 2006 Annual FOIA Reports, which are required by law.

• Ten agencies misrepresented their FOIA backlogs to Congress.

• Several agencies contradicted their own responses to the archive’s two previous “10 oldest” audits by reporting requests this year that were significantly older than those they produced in 2003 or 2005.

Bipartisan congressional efforts to solve some of the problems exposed in the archive’s audits have stalled in the Senate, with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) holding S. 849 from an up-or-down vote, according to a press release from the archive. The bill would impose penalties for agency delays, mandate accurate and timely tracking and reporting of FOIA requests, and give FOIA requesters new tools to hold agencies accountable. The House passed its FOIA Amendments of 2007 with a significant bipartisan majority.

ACCESS DENIED. On July 3, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit The New York Times filed against the Justice and Defense departments for access to classified documents, saying the documents, related to the government’s wiretapping program, were properly withheld. Read more on the LDF Shield blog.

INDEPENDENCE DAY. BBC reporter Alan Johnston was freed July 4 after being held hostage in Gaza for 114 days. Read about his ordeal on CNN.

NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR SPJ BOARD SEATS. This fall, SPJ will elect 13 leaders to serve on the Society’s 23-member board of directors. The board provides direction for how the organization carries out its mission to improve and protect journalism through programs such as First Amendment advocacy, educational training and the promotion of the highest standards of ethical reporting. Elections will take place at the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference Oct. 4-7 in Washington, D.C. Nominations must be received by July 30. For more information, click here or contact David Carlson at (352) 846-0171 or

PARDON THE INTERRUPTION. SPJ’s PressNotes is on holiday and will return Monday, July 9. PressNotes is SPJ’s daily summary of media industry news. To get PressNotes in your inbox every week day, click here to send a subscription e-mail.

LATEST QUILL NOW OUT. Get inspired. The June/July edition of Quill magazine highlights this year’s Sigma Delta Chi Award winners, recognizing the best in professional journalism. Check it out.

NOT SO BLACK-AND-WHITE. Media coverage of Jessie Davis, the murdered pregnant Ohio woman, included images of her toddler son, Blake, whose father is the main suspect in the case. Blake’s father is black. Davis was white. But the media never directly commented on the boy’s biracial makeup. Failing to point out the obvious is one way the media shows something is not out of the ordinary. America seems more accepting of people with a mixed-race background, but a blogger on SPJ’s diversity blog, Who’s News, wants to know how biracial people view themselves.

APPLICATIONS FOR DIVERSITY LEADERSHIP DUE SOON. The deadline for the Diversity Leadership Fellows program has been extended to July 20. The fellowship includes the cost of hotel, travel and registration for the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference, Oct. 4-7 in Washington, D.C. For more information and to submit applications, visit

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK. Throughout the year, SPJ seeks nominations for its highest national honors. As a member, you have the opportunity to leave feedback on candidates so the SPJ executive committee is better informed while selecting honorees. To leave feedback, you must be logged in to the “For Members” section of the SPJ Web site. Anonymous feedback will not be accepted or reviewed. Questions? Please contact Programs Coordinator Heather Porter at

SEEING IS BELIEVING. SPJ Colorado took advantage of the Internet and created an audio slideshow of its annual report, highlighting the group’s accomplishments.

TRADE IDEAS WITH THE EXPERTS. SPJ and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication are connecting North Carolina Journalists for an afternoon gathering on Aug. 4. Prominent journalists from the area and from SPJ will lead the event, scheduled for noon to 5 p.m., in the school’s Freedom Forum Room. Think of it as a free jam session for journalists wanting new ideas about how to improve their work and make their jobs more interesting — and fun. Look out for former SPJ President David Carlson, director of the Interactive Media Lab at the University of Florida; Philip Meyer, Knight Chair in Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill; and SPJ President Christine Tatum. Space is limited, so reserve your spot now! For more information, contact Beth King at (317) 927-8000, ext. 211, or

IS REPORTING GREEK TO YOU? Learn to understand the role of a free press in promoting the values of a free society and accurately report on international, political and economic conflicts in the birthplace of democracy: Athens. The Fund for American Studies seeks qualified journalists to attend the Euro-Med Journalism Institute, sponsored by the Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation in partnership with the fund. Those selected to attend the institute, which runs Sept. 29-Oct. 7, will receive a scholarship. Apply online by July 15. Questions? E-mail or

INTERNATIONAL CHARITY — CORRECTION. Last week we told you how to donate books on communication theory, mass communication, mass media, advertising, journalism and public relations to the Sumedang Student Association for Communications and Media Studies, which is trying to build a small library. We gave the address to send books to, but we neglected to include the country. Oops! Here’s the information again:

Sumedang Student Association For Communications and Media Studies
PMII Warung Kalde Belakang Toko Eiger Kecamatan. Jatinangor Kabupaten
Sumedang, Indonesia 45363

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