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Project Sunshine
Information
A Winning Strategy


Freedom of Information
About/History
News/Articles
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
GovernmentAttic.org

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

Linda Petersen
Managing Editor
The Valley Journals
801-254-5974 X 17
E-mail
Bio (click to expand) picture Linda Petersen is the managing editor of The Valley Journals, a group of 15 free, total market coverage, monthly community papers in the Salt Lake Valley, Utah.

She is president of the Utah Foundation for Open Government, a citizen coalition that works to educate and advocate for open government.

A past president of the Utah Headliners pro chapter, she is currently the chapter’s FOI officer and treasurer.

For her open government advocacy, she has received the Utah Press Association John E. Jones Award, the Utah Headliners Clifford P. Cheney Service to Journalism Award and the Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Pro Chapter Member Award.

Home > Freedom of Information > Sunshine Week > Quotable FOI Experts

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Quotable FOI Experts

Need a quote on deadline for a story about a closed meeting or records request denial? Nobody is around to speak out against the secrecy? No problem! Talk to FOI experts to get their take on things, add depth to your story, and get no-holds-barred quotes. You might not be able call your government leaders secret, fascist SOBs, but these folks just might!

Sunshine Week 2014: Two new studies released

On the eve of Sunshine Week 2014, SPJ released the results from two surveys about journalists’ experience with obtaining public information. The studies were led by Dr. Carolyn S. Carlson — a communication professor from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., and a member of SPJ’s Freedom of Information committee — and Megan Roy, Carlson’s graduate research assistant.

The surveys specifically document reporters’ perceptions about whether government press offices interfere with reporting.

The first survey was of political and general assignment reporters working at the state and local level. The vast majority of reporters who took this survey said the amount of control has been increasing over the past several years and they see it only getting worse over the next few years. They agreed the current level of media control by PIOs is an impediment to providing information to the public. Download and read the complete report [PDF, 468 KB] here.

For the second survey, SPJ joined with the Education Writers Association to focus on the nation's education reporters. Journalists indicated that public information officers often require pre-approval for interviews, decide whom reporters get to interview and often monitor interviews. Sometimes they will prohibit interviews altogether. Education writers overwhelmingly agreed with the statement that “the public was not getting all the information it needs because of barriers agencies are imposing on journalists’ reporting practices.” Download and read the complete report [PDF, 417 KB] here.

Transcripts of remarks from the National Press Club’s “When Press Offices Block the Press” event [PDF]
Introduction by Kathryn Foxhall
Carolyn Carlson
SPJ President David Cuillier
Emily Richmond, EWA Public Editor


Resources
Sunshine Week Web site
Chapter FOI program ideas
Campus FOI resources
FOI activities for newsrooms
Writing about FOI
Quotable expert sources
FOI studies and reports
Curriculum and classroom ideas for teachers
FOI resources
Sunshine Week Logos



SPJ's Black Hole Award: The Society of Professional Journalists launched the Black Hole Award in order to highlight the most heinous violations of the public’s right to know. By exposing examples of unnecessary and harmful secrecy, we hope to educate the public to their rights and hold government accountable. In the past, this award has been given annually. This year, the Freedom of Information committee adapted the rules so that the Black Hole Award is given on an as-needed basis. To view past winners, visit the Black Hole Award web page.

Reporter’s Guide to FERPA: Navigating the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act: Ever have a tough time getting public records from schools or universities? We feel your pain and are here to help you. The federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act has been twisted beyond recognition, keeping school lunch menus, graduation honors and athletic travel records secret. Take back your right to information with this guide, produced by the Society of Professional Journalists in conjunction with the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

SPJ FOI Committee members

SPJ FOI Committee Chairman David Cuillier (work: 520-626-9694, home: 520-229-1466) and fellow committee members are ready and willing to talk to you about your problem and provide (non-legal) advice and quotes. Check out the committee contact information at the FOI main page. Also, SPJ sometimes issues letters on behalf of the SPJ president in support of journalists for especially egregious cases.

Your state SPJ sunshine chair

Check with your state SPJ sunshine chair, who should be able to help you or send you to someone else who can. The list is posted on the SPJ Web site.

Your state freedom of information coalition leaders

The National Freedom of Information Coalition, based out of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism, coordinates coalitions in nearly every state. To find your state’s coalition contact information, go here. Also, Executive Director Charles Davis (an SPJ FOI Committee member and former committee chair), says it like it is and doesn’t hold back when he hears about unjust secrecy. He can be reached at 573-882-5736 or via e-mail. Also, check out the list of FOI groups compiled by SPJ.

Your state press association

Directors of state press associations often know more about access in your state than anyone else, and they are passionate about serving the public’s interest. For a press association in your state, check out the National Newspaper Association’s online directory of state associations.

Campus access

The Student Press Law Center advocates for campus press access to records and meetings. Contact the center for assistance, free legal advice and a quote from its director, Frank LoMonte, 703-807-1904. Also, check out their helpful guides on accessing campus crime information.

Coalition of Journalists for Open Government

Pete Weitzel at CJOG knows a lot about open government. He’s led major studies in access and has a long career in journalism. Contact him for comments and insights via e-mail or at 703-807-2100. Visit their Web site at cjog.org.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

This group fights hard for access and reporter rights. Contact them to let them know about your problem or get a quote. Also, if you go to the Open Government Guide for your state, read about your public records and meetings laws and then contact the expert who wrote the explanation and summary for the guide.

FOI advocates

The following people deal with FOI daily and have good insights and strong comments to offer:

Gary Bass, executive director, OMB Watch, 1742 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, 202-234-8494.
Rick Blum, director, Sunshine in Government Initiative, 703-807-2100.
— Lucy Dalglish, executive director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 703-807-2100.
Patrice McDermott, director, OpenTheGovernment.org, 1742 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, 202-332-6736.
Tonda Rush, director of public policy, National Newspaper Association, 703-812-8989.

FOI scholars and researchers

These folks are paid to study FOI and are some of the leading scholars in the field. You can’t get much more authoritative than that. These are just some of them, along with some of their previous research:

Carolyn Carlson, Ph.D., assistant professor, Kennesaw State University. Access to campus crime records.
Wendell Cochran, Journalism director, American University. Use of FOIA by journalists, federal government's administration and oversight of FOIA. Also available for help and advice on pursuing federal FOIA requests. Work: 202-885-2075.
David Cuillier, Ph.D., assistant professor, University of Arizona Department of Journalism, SPJ FOI Committee chair. Public attitudes toward FOI, government compliance with FOI laws, access vs. privacy invasion and identity theft, access to court records. Work: 520-626-9694; Home: 520-229-1466.
Charles N. Davis, Ph.D., University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism and executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. Access to public records, prisons and meetings, particularly at the state and local level. Anything regarding FOI and secrecy. Work: 573-882-5736.
Jane E. Kirtley, J.D., Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota. Freedom of information law and policy, access to digitized government information, national security and privacy, cameras in the courts. Work: 612-625-9038.
Suzanne J. Piotrowski, Ph.D. School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University-Newark. management reform and FOI; contracting and FOI; e-government, websites, and transparency; open public meetings. Work (973) 353.5093 Ext. 20.
Jeannine Relly, assistant professor of practice, Department of Journalism, University of Arizona. Intergovernmental organization and transnational NGO movement to advance access to information laws in developing countries, the critical infrastructure information exemption to the FOIA in the Homeland Security Act, business use of the FOIA and the legislative history of exemption 4. Cell: 520-250-1603; Work: 520-621-7556.
Alasdair Roberts, Ph.D, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. Implementation and compliance with FOI laws; effectiveness of FOI laws; governmental communications management, author of Blacked Out. Office/cell: 315-849-2227; http://www.aroberts.us.
Susan Dente Ross, Ph.D., Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, Washington State University. FOI and constitutional rights and freedoms; access and democracy; access and government accountability. Work: 509-335-3854; 509-335-5842.
Sig Splichal, Ph.D., University of Miami. Access to public records, courtrooms and privacy issues. Co-author of the book Access Denied: Freedom of Information in the Information Age. Work: 305-284-1783.


Click here to contact the Project Sunshine Chair in your state.

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