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Open Doors: Accessing Government Records
Introduction
FOI Basics
FOI and the Courts
FOI and Privacy
FOI and Your Life
FOI and Daily News Coverage
Red Flags
FOI A to Z
Resources
Purchase a Copy


Freedom of Information
FOIA Home
News/Articles
Find FOI in your state
FOI step-by-step guides

Quill: Stories About FOI
– Why the #FreePress editorials were not enough
– Meet the victims of violence against journalists
– World Press Freedom Day hits home

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

Danielle McLean
Investigative reporter
ThinkProgress
E-mail
@DanielleBMcLean
Bio (click to expand) picture Danielle McLean is an investigative reporter at ThinkProgress and chair of SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee. Over the past five years, McLean has worked as an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News and has been published in the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the MetroWest Daily News, the Milford Daily News, and dozens of weekly Massachusetts publications. She was ranked no. 13 in Scout Somerville magazine’s list of the top 40 local leaders in the City of Somerville, Massachusetts for her reporting at the Somerville Journal newspaper and has won the New England Newspaper and Press Association’s government, transportation, business and economic, and courts and crime reporting awards. McLean previously served as president of SPJ’s New England chapter, pushing for public records reform and a free press. Under her watch, the chapter won SPJ’s 2014-15 Circle of Excellence award for Freedom of Information.

Home > Freedom of Information > Open Doors > Red Flags

Mentor Match-up
Introduction | FOI Basics | FOI and the Courts | FOI and Privacy | FOI and Your Life
FOI and Daily News Coverage | Red Flags | FOI A to Z | Resources | Purchase a Copy

Red Flags

You Know you Have a Problem With FOI When:

A privacy coalition forms in your community or your state, perhaps in advance of an upcoming legislative session.

Newspapers receive a wave of letters or commentaries calling for more protection of personal privacy.

An elected official – governor, attorney general, legislator – calls for a special task force to address public access to government information. (NOTE: Such studies may be required by the law and, even if they aren’t, can be very productive in improving FOI laws and policies. However, FOI advocates should insist that their viewpoint is represented on any commission and that the leadership is not biased toward an anti-access view.)

A government agency announces a new policy to close certain records or institute new procedures for requesting records.

A government entity attempts to muzzle frequent “gadflies” or critics.

A judge suddenly closes a court proceeding and orders all observers out. (NOTE: Remember that courts are not subject to open meetings laws. However, any time a court proceeding is closed, journalists should make sure the judge has followed procedure and explain the rules surrounding courtroom closures to the public. The media also should be active in challenging courtroom closures that they believe are unwarranted or improper.)

Government files, which had been available, suddenly become unavailable.

A government employee wants to know “why you want” information or records.

A government agency increases the price of copies or duplication.

A government agency (or a local government) purchases a new computer system that stores information in a new format. (A format incompatible with yours.)

Meetings of deliberative bodies are held without notice.

Regularly scheduled meetings are re-scheduled to new times.

Meetings are held without printed agendas.

A government council, committee, or other decision-making body holds frequent “executive sessions” without fully explaining why.

Minutes from meetings are not available.

Your local television station or newspaper does a big “Don’t Let This Happen to You” story warning about potential violations of people’s privacy.


Open Doors: Accessing Government Records
Introduction
FOI Basics
FOI and the Courts
FOI and Privacy
FOI and Your Life
FOI and Daily News Coverage
Red Flags
FOI A to Z
Resources
Purchase a Copy


Freedom of Information
FOIA Home
News/Articles
Find FOI in your state
FOI step-by-step guides

Quill: Stories About FOI
– Why the #FreePress editorials were not enough
– Meet the victims of violence against journalists
– World Press Freedom Day hits home

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.

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