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!
SPJ's Black Hole Award: The Society of Professional Journalists launched the Black Hole Award this year 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. The Freedom of Information Committee accepted nominations for 2010 violations, coordinated by committee member Mike Farrell of the University of Kentucky, and selected the winner along with five runners-up. This award will be handed out annually during national Sunshine Week. Click here to read about this year's winner and the five runners-up.
Reporters 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 states 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 doesnt 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 publics interest. For a press association in your state, check out the National Newspaper Associations online directory of state associations.
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. Hes 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.
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 cant 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.