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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

Jonathan Anderson
Public issues investigative reporter
Marshfield News-Herald
Marshfield, Wisc.
Phone: 920-676-5399
Bio (click to expand) picture Jonathan Anderson is a public issues investigative reporter for the Marshfield News-Herald in Marshfield, Wisconsin. Before joining the News-Herald, in 2015, Jonathan was a reporter for a pair of newspapers in northern Wisconsin for nearly two years. He has held internships at the First Amendment Center, Wisconsin Law Journal, Wisconsin Public Radio and WISN-TV, and was also editor in chief of his college newspaper, the UWM Post.

Jonathan is an avid requester of public records, and his work in the FOI arena has also entailed advocacy and research. He has been the plaintiff in two lawsuits challenging improper government secrecy. He helped obtain a legal opinion from the Wisconsin attorney general that found University of Wisconsin System student government groups subject to the state’s open meetings law. His master’s thesis, “Resolving Public Records Disputes in Wisconsin: The Role of the Attorney General's Office,” investigated how the Wisconsin attorney general reviews and sometimes intervenes in access disputes. And he has volunteered for the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

Home > Freedom of Information > Sunshine Week > Quotable FOI Studies and Reports

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Your right to know  •  March 15-21, 2015

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

Sunshine Week website
Chapter FOI program ideas
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2014 resources: New studies and more
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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.

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!

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 and

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

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