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– Contact your senator today to pass FOIA fixes!

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

David Cuillier
Director and Associate Professor
School of Journalism
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Work: 520-626-9694
Bio (click to expand) David Cuillier, Ph.D., is director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where he researches and teaches access to public records, and is co-author with Charles Davis of "The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records." He served as FOI chair 2007-11 before becoming a national officer and serving as SPJ president in 2013-14.

Before entering academia, he was a newspaper reporter and editor in the Pacific Northwest. He has testified before Congress on FOI issues twice and provides newsroom training in access on behalf of SPJ. His long-term goal is to see a unified coalition of journalism organizations fighting for press freedom and funded through an endowed FOI war chest.

Home > Freedom of Information > Sunshine Week > FOI Resources

Sunshine Week Logo
Your right to know  •  March 15-21, 2015

FOI Resources

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

Sunshine Week Web site
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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.

Society of Professional Journalists

Sunshine Chair in your state
David Cuillier, FOI Committee chairman, 520-626-9694
Open Doors publication guide to access

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Reports and tips regarding access, including a guide to using FOIA and a state-by-state explanation of access laws.
Online FOIA and state request letter generators

Student Press Law Center

Online state records request letter generator and guides to campus records

Coalition of Journalists for Open Government

Tracks issues regarding access issues

Citizen Access Project

State-by-state comparison and ratings of access laws

National Freedom of Information Coalition

Contact coalitions in your state
Also, see

Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE)

— Keyword searchable morgue of 23,000 investigative stories and 2,000 tip sheets
— Hundreds of FOIA requests that have been filed
— Cheap access to dozens of federal databases
Web site (Membership required for full use of site)

The Associated Press FOI page

Find news and issues regarding FOI at this Web site updated by The Associated Press.

This non-profit group, represented by a variety of organizations including SPJ, has current news and reports on FOI. This group is particularly good at keeping up on federal access issues.

The National Security Archive

This institute separate from government acquires and posts a variety of interesting government documents. Check it out for great story ideas.

Government Attic

This site launched in 2007 gathers a variety of interesting federal records and posts them online, mainly as pdf files, for people to view and use as they like. Great story ideas.

Freedom of Information Center

This center at the University of Missouri School of Journalism provides a ton of information about access to public records laws and access audits.

OMB Watch

This group fights for open government information for citizens, posting news and providing sources and studies on freedom of information. Check it out.

Web sites with great document-driven ideas you can use in your own community

SPJ Open Doors, records A-Z
IRE Extra! Extra! daily stories
Society of Environmental Journalists story archive
Center for Investigative Reporting story blog
iDig Answers “hit records”
Google News Alerts (Go to Google News, click on “News Alerts”, then set up alerts with keywords such as “public records request” and “freedom of information” and Google will send you links to stories that contain those keywords).

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

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