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Project Sunshine
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FOI FYI: SPJ’s FOI Committee Blog
– Sunshine Week 2014: Two new studies released
– SPJ members discuss conflicts between reporters, government flacks at National Press Club event
– Salt Lake Tribune reporter uses web tools to let the people decide political scandal

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 Studies and Reports

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Quotable FOI Studies and Reports

Here are studies and reports that might lend facts and support for your editorials or stories regarding freedom of information. Check them out!

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.

FOI not a media issue

This study by the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government showed that only 6 percent of FOIA requests are submitted by journalists. About two-thirds are submitted by commercial interests and the rests by citizens and non-profits. In another study by the conservative Heritage Foundation, only 5 percent of requests were found to be from journalists. These studies show that the issue isn’t about the government vs. media. It’s about citizens and the economy!

Secrecy Report Card

A great summary of the state of secrecy today at the federal level is produced annually by OpenTheGovernment.org.

Longer waits for less information

The Coalition of Journalists for Open Government produced a report showing how federal agencies are increasingly taking longer to respond to FOIA requests and providing less. Also, The National Security Archives studied delays in access in a 2003 report, and then followed it up in 2007 with another report showing the oldest pending FOIA request (20 years) among others.

Mediation and ombudsman

A 2007 report, “Mediation without Litigation,” by Harry Hammitt for the National Freedom of Information Coalition describes state models for informal resolutions and mediation for FOI disputes.

Homefront Confidential

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press extensively documented the extent of secrecy since 9/11 in its large 2005 online report.

Access to court records

Harry Hammitt produced a 2006 report examining access to court records since 9/11.

Comparing state laws

Two studies rank the states’ open record laws and their openness. Check out the study by the Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Better Government Association and the 2007 report by the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

Universities’ lack of compliance

A variety of studies have shown that universities often don’t comply with the Campus Security Act (a.k.a. Clery Act or Buckley Amendment) in reporting crime on campus. For example, check out a 2004 five-state study by Washington State University’s AccessNorthwest.

Public attitudes toward access

A half dozen public opinion surveys have focused on citizen attitudes toward FOI and press access to public records. For details, contact SPJ FOI Committee Chairman David Cuillier and see summaries of national surveys: at http://www.wsu.edu/~accessnw/news/survey.htm and http://www.sunshineweek.org/sunshineweek/scrippspoll07.


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

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